When the Ivy League canceled all athletics during the 2020-21 academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown athletes lost a chance to compete for the Bears but retained a year of NCAA eligibility.
The Ivy League instituted a one-time waiver to allow athletes that graduated in 2021 to compete for their current school for one more season as graduate students, The Herald previously reported. But the waiver is expiring and does not apply to any other graduating classes, which means some Bears who still have NCAA eligibility are losing their Ivy League eligibility and thus can no longer compete at Brown.
Several Brown athletes, including Zach Fogell ’22, Danielle van Rootselaar ’22 and Jaylan Gainey ’22, are using their extra eligibility as an opportunity to transfer to major conference schools and play for nationally competitive programs while continuing their education as graduate students.
Fogell, a pitcher on the baseball team, will transfer to the University of Connecticut next year. The Huskies are perennial contenders in baseball — they have reached the College World Series five times, made the NCAA Baseball Tournament last year and have a 26-7 record so far this season. Fogell had already been recruited by UConn in high school, so he was familiar with the Huskies program and coaching staff.
“I had a good relationship with the coaches, and they reached back out once I entered the transfer portal,” Fogell said. “Things just went really well. I went in for a visit, and I was really excited for the opportunity to be a Husky.”
Because baseball season occurs in the spring, Fogell lost both his 2020 and 2021 seasons to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning he will still have two years of eligibility remaining after graduating from Brown.
“I am not done playing,” Fogell said. “I feel like I still have a future in this sport, so I knew right away that I wanted (to) use these two years of eligibility.”
Van Rootselaar, a midfielder/forward on the field hockey team who was named unanimous First-Team All-Ivy in 2021, has committed to play for the University of Maryland next season. The Terrapins are also no strangers to success, as they reached the Final Four of the NCAA Field Hockey Tournament in 2021 and narrowly missed out on the National Championship game after losing in overtime to Liberty University.
Maryland plays in the highly competitive Big Ten conference, which Van Rootselaar said was an important factor in her transfer decision. “I wanted to compete in the (Atlantic Coast Conference) or the Big Ten, just because those are the most competitive programs in field hockey in the country,” she said. She also emphasized the Terrapins’ high aspirations — “they really are on a mission to win a national championship,” she said.
Gainey, a forward on the men’s basketball team and two-time Ivy League Men’s Basketball Defensive Player of the Year, is continuing his basketball career at Florida State University. The Seminoles also have a history of success, including reaching the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2021 and the Elite Eight in 2018.
Gainey emphasized the role of both personal and professional objectives in his choice. “I felt really welcomed to the school,” he said. “They (produce) a lot of professionals. They have a system … that really gets guys” to the NBA.
In addition to furthering their sports careers, these athletes are also using their transfers to advance their education through graduate programs. Van Rootselaar, a BEO concentrator at Brown, will be pursuing a Master of Finance at Maryland. “It’s just the best of both worlds,” she said. “I get a great master’s, and I get the opportunity to compete for a national championship.”
Van Rootselaar, who is from the Netherlands, emphasized the opportunity to compete and study at a high level both at Brown and Maryland. “One of the reasons that I came to the (United States) was because it allowed me to compete and get a great education at the same time, and that’s not really a thing in Europe,” she said.
Fogell is also a BEO concentrator but has not finalized which graduate program he will pursue. He noted that he wants to continue working in sports even after his baseball career is over, and he is considering a graduate program in sports management, human resources or finance.
Gainey said that he plans to enroll in a masters’ program in entrepreneurship at Florida State, and shared that few other schools have similar programs.
Athletes noted that practice and competition schedules at their new schools will likely be more time-intensive. The Ivy League has a strict limit on the amount of time athletes can devote to official sports activities to achieve a balance with academics, but such limits typically do not exist in other conferences.
There “will probably be a little bit more rigorous practice schedule” at UConn, Fogell said. “There’s 20-something more games (per season) than we have currently” at Brown.
Gainey’s transition to ACC-level training will be a rapid one. “I feel like everything will be more intense,” he said. “As soon as I graduate (from Brown), I (have) to be right on campus” for the beginning of Florida State’s summer workouts.
“It will be a lot more athletics-focused” during the field hockey season, Van Rootselaar said. “From 12 to 4 (p.m.) every day you just do athletics; you plan your classes around that in the fall. It will be more time-consuming, but at the same time I think it will also allow me to really reach my true potential because I have more time to play and become the best player I can be.”
The transfer student-athletes also discussed the potential shift in mentality going from Brown, where the Bears are often underdogs, to schools that are likely to be favored in most games. “It will be a different kind of pressure, maybe, because you are expected to win … whereas at Brown that pressure really never existed,” Van Rootselaar said.
Gainey hopes to maintain his underdog mentality even when playing at a higher level of competition. “This is going to be a big confidence booster, knowing that (Florida State) was (already) going to be a pretty good team,” he said. “But I'm always gonna have the underdog mindset. … Coming from a mid-major league, I just have a lot to prove.”
But Gainey still emphasized that he will remember Brown fondly and hopes that the connections he made will remain strong. “Everything about Brown was amazing to me,” he said. “I’m going to miss all my friends, coaches, family — I just built a whole support system around here that I'm just going to take everywhere with me.”
Despite transferring to a different athletic program and having two baseball seasons canceled, Fogell said he will relish the relationships he created as a member of Brown’s baseball team. “The teammates and the bonds you make over the course of the four years are definitely the most impactful,” he said. “It’s not always the memories on the field that you’re going to remember for the rest of your life.”
Peter Swope is the senior editor of digital engagement for The Brown Daily Herald's 133rd Editorial Board. He previously served as a Sports section editor and has also written stories for University News. Peter is a junior from New Jersey studying history.