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Ivy League to allow for fifth year of varsity sport eligibility in midst of pandemic

Decision breaks from League’s previous rejection of similar measure when spring sports were canceled last year

The Ivy League will allow fourth-year senior student-athletes, who may have lost playing time due to COVID-19-related cancellations in their final year of sports eligibility, to continue playing their varsity sport for the 2021-22 season if they are accepted to and enroll as a graduate student at their current institution, Associate Director of Athletics and Compliance Bridgette Cahill ’06 wrote in an email to senior student-athletes Thursday.

“As a department, we're grateful to the Council for extending fifth-year eligibility waiver opportunities to current seniors who have missed much of their athletic experience,” Interim Director of Athletics Colin Sullivan wrote in an email to The Herald. “This is a positive outcome, creating an opportunity for our student-athletes who have been affected by this pandemic.”

To allow for this exception, the Ivy League Council of Presidents had to waive Ivy rules I.B.IV.A.2., V.C.2.a. and V.D. for the upcoming academic year, according to Cahill’s email. This exemption will not be available to other undergraduate years. 

When the early stages of the pandemic led to the cancellation of the spring sports season in March of last year, the Ivy League voted against a similar measure to allow the then-senior spring athletes to continue their varsity careers after graduation for the current 2020-21 spring season, according to ESPN

At that time, the Ivy League said that its decision to deny fifth-year eligibility upheld its “longstanding practice that athletic opportunities are for undergraduates,” ESPN reported.

The NCAA Division I Council went a different route last spring, announcing that all spring-season athletes whose seasons were canceled by the pandemic would be eligible for a fifth year, according to its website. Since then, it has expanded the decision to include all student-athletes in every varsity season, according to ESPN.


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