The Ivy League Council of Presidents has approved the opportunity for current senior student-athletes to play an additional season as graduate students next season, according to a statement sent to student-athletes on Thursday.
The statement, obtained by ESPN, makes it clear that the rule change is a one-time waiver because of the Ivy League canceling its fall and winter seasons. It won’t be a permanent change.
“This change is a direct result of the pandemic and will not be available in future years,” the memo states. “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.”
It’s a stark change for the Ivy League, which in the past hasn’t allowed athletic redshirts or permitted graduate students to play athletics. Around 20 Ivy League men’s basketball players have graduated and transferred to another school since 2015, including several at the high-major level. Former Columbia transfer Mike Smith might be the best recent example; he’s the starting point guard for Michigan, the No. 3 team in college basketball.
There are also more than 20 Ivy League men’s basketball players currently in the NCAA transfer portal. Last season’s Co-Player of the Year, Yale forward Paul Atkinson, has signed to play for Notre Dame next season. Six of the top 25 players in ESPN’s transfer rankings are from the Ivy League, including four players who earned all-conference honors last season.
“Student-athletes who wish to take advantage of this waiver must be admitted to [and then enroll full-time] as a degree seeking graduate students through regular channels at their undergraduate institution,” the announcement states. “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.”
In November, the Ivy League became the first — and only — Division I conference to cancel all winter sports. Impacted sports included men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, indoor track and field, swimming and fencing.
The Ivy was also the first conference to cancel its men’s and women’s conference tournaments last March and was the first conference to announce it wouldn’t have fall sports because of the coronavirus pandemic.