Ivy League Approves One-Time Allowance for Grad Student Eligibility

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Photo Courtesy: Harvard Athletics

The Ivy League has approved a one-time opportunity for current senior student-athletes to play as graduate students next season, it was revealed Thursday.

The Ivy League Council of Presidents communicated the decision in a statement to students, which was obtained and reported by ESPN.

The Ancient Eight has been notoriously resistant to changes, such as allowing redshirt seasons or fifth-year students to participate in athletics. But the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the league to cancel its fall and winter seasons has softened that stance, if only just this one time.

Athletes affected by those cancellations, including men’s and women’s swimmers and divers, can obtain an extra season of eligibility under certain conditions.

“This change is a direct result of the pandemic and will not be available in future years,” the statement reads. “The waiver provides current 4th-year students the opportunity to complete their athletics experience at their current institution in 2021-22 after staying on track to graduate in four years.”

The Ivy League has lost a full year of athletic competition to the coronavirus. While the NCAA completely shut down during last spring – with the Ivy League first to cancel its conference basketball tournaments, setting off the early-March deluge – the Ivies opted in July to postpone fall sports. In November, the league axed winter sports, the only Division I league to do so.

In its highest-profile sport, basketball, that has cost the Ivy League talent. ESPN reports about 20 men’s basketball players, including Columbia transfer and now Michigan starting guard Mike Smith, having entered the transfer portal or found new homes.

Thursday’s decision offers a pathway to compete for their schools again.

“Student-athletes who wish to take advantage of this waiver must be admitted to [and then enroll full-time] as a degree seeking graduate student through regular channels at their undergraduate institution,” the statement continues. “They must receive waiver approval from their institution’s 5th year advisor and the waiver request must be processed and approved by the Ivy League office. Existing Ivy League financial aid rules will continue to apply.”