Will Maryland's Jared Bernhardt Pursue Football or Lacrosse in 2021?


Jared Bernhardt intended to pursue football as a fifth-year grad student. What will he do now?

The truncated college lacrosse season has transformed late March from a time when conference play gets underway to a chance to wonder whether some of the country’s best players will be back for another season.

An NCAA panel came out in support of eligibility relief for spring sport athletes, so the opportunity is likely to be there for whatever seniors wish to continue their careers in 2021.

But among the quirkier situations is Maryland star attackman Jared Bernhardt. The senior already announced his intention to play football next fall, destination unknown. And now comes the possibility he could play a fifth season of lacrosse at Maryland.

Coach John Tillman said Friday that Bernhardt returned home, along with current Maryland assistant Jesse Bernhardt, and plans to discuss his situation with his family.

“They’re going to talk about some things,” Tillman said. “Right now, we just don’t know if it’s an option for a fifth year and what would the circumstances be with that extra year. I’m not sure anyone can do anything right now.”

Bernhardt, a Tewaaraton finalist in 2019, had 20 goals and nine assists in six games this year. After a four-goal, two-assist showing against Albany on March 7, Bernhardt had 191 career points (tied for ninth in school history) and 129 goals (fifth most all-time among Terps, and just 26 goals shy of Matt Rambo’s program benchmark).

While others in his spot might be looking at a question of another year of school or the chance to dive into a full-time job, Bernhardt could be facing the choice of one year of football or a fifth year of lacrosse.

It would seem unlikely an answer will come quickly, especially with an unprecedented and malleable situation unfolding as a result of a worldwide pandemic.

“Without any definitive word, people have to be hopeful there will be a fifth year but realistic enough to go, ‘Well, if they don’t, then what are my options?’” Tillman said. “So I think Jared, like everyone else, is waiting to hear what his options would be. That’s certainly what I would recommend and say, ‘Let’s wait and see what they decide’ because there’s so many moving parts here and so many things I don’t people realize are going to be impacted. It’s not just, ‘Hey you get an extra year.’”

Tillman, whose team was 5-1 when the season was cut short, rather exhaustively ran down the issues facing programs with regard to players’ careers unexpectedly spilling over into an extra year.

Could they afford an extra year of college? Would they head to grad school? And for those who weren’t candidates for that track, could they adjust their academic schedules this semester (and possibly in the fall) or add other undergraduate classes to hold off on graduating?

For schools, what will happen to scholarship limitations? And roster size limitations? And even, simple as it seems, the day-to-day logistics of having more players than lockers available?

And from a more global perspective, some schools don’t have offerings beyond the undergraduate level. Then there’s the Ivy League, which traditionally does not allow players to use more than four years of eligibility even if injuries are a factor.

All are factors that will shape far more than the trajectory of a few star players. They could alter the landscape for any spring sport for nearly half a decade, depending on what path the NCAA opts to pursue.

“What does that mean for kids in the Ivy League and Patriot League?” Tillman said. “What if they don’t have graduate programs? Can they take that year somewhere else? Do guys who maybe had high aspirations to play this year and it didn’t work out the way they want, if they get an extra year and they can use it anywhere else, do they all the sudden reconsider coming back to a program?

“You might see more transfers if this happens.”

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