NEW YORK — The Ivy League has decided not to allow its spring-sport athletes who had their seasons shortened by the coronavirus pandemic to have an additional year of eligibility as graduates, despite the NCAA granting that option earlier this week.
The move, which was announced Thursday, was consistent for the Ivy League with its policies. The conference hasn’t allowed athletes to participate in any sports as graduates.
“After a number of discussions surrounding the current circumstances, the Ivy League has decided the League’s existing eligibility policies will remain in place, including its longstanding practice that athletic opportunities are for undergraduates,” the league said in a statement.
The NCAA Division I Council voted Monday to give spring-sport athletes regardless of their year in school a way to get back the season they lost because of the new coronavirus, but it did not guarantee financial aid to the current crop of seniors if they return to play next year. Spring-sport athletes include baseball, softball and lacrosse players.
Penn athletic director Grace Calhoun, chairwoman of the NCAA Division I Council, said ADs in the Ivy League had many discussions over the past few weeks about what to do.
“We had hours of conversation since it’s an extraordinary circumstance,” she said in a phone interview. “We discussed allowing institutions to work with student-athletes up to and including allowing them to be grad students. Or do we hold tight and say our founding principles are what they are.”
In the end, the league decided that it believes in “undergraduate eligibility and despite the circumstances we’ll stick with that,” she said.
Calhoun said decisions ultimately were going to be made by the school presidents. For the policy to change, it would have required six of the eight to agree on the one-time leniency.
As of Thursday, before the announcement from the conference, nearly 70 Ivy League senior spring-sports athletes had entered the NCAA transfer portal, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the players haven’t publicly announced their moves.
If the Ivy League athletes transfer, they will count against the scholarship limit for their new schools. The Division I Council said senior spring athletes who were in their last year of eligibility could stay at their current schools and wouldn’t count against the scholarship limits for their sports. If they transferred, they wouldn’t get that exemption.
Calhoun said she believed 20 or fewer students from Penn might be affected by the decision. She expected most of the senior spring athletes to stay on track to graduate this spring.
“There are a couple of ways they could stay at Penn as undergraduates,” she said. “We’re certainly discouraging this if they took a leave of absence and came back next year. If a student slowed down their course work or picked up an extra major or minor, they could go beyond the eight semesters. There are a few ways a student could find themselves able to capitalize on a fifth year.”
For an Ivy League athlete to withdraw from school now and then return next year, he or she would have to be readmitted by the school and receive a waiver from the conference allowing them to participate.
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