The Ivy League is doing something unusual – at least for the Ivy League.
Reports emerged Thursday that the league will allow seniors to compete as graduate students due to COVID-19 for the 2021-22 academic year, a reversal of longstanding and unique Ivy policy of not allowing athletic redshirts or graduate students to play varsity sports.
Harvard Athletics Director Erin McDermott announced Thursday that students must be admitted as graduate students “through regular channels” at their undergraduate university to be eligible for this waiver and must receive approval from their fifth-year advisor and the Ivy League office, according to The Harvard Crimson.
“In granting this waiver, the Presidents acknowledge the unique impact of the pandemic during the current academic year across all three sport seasons for those students in their final year of Ivy League eligibility,” McDermott wrote, per the Crimson. “This change is a direct result of the pandemic and will not be available in future years.”
My first thought was that this could be a critical boost for Ivy hoops programs set back by the Ivy League’s safety-first decision to cancel all winter sports due to the pandemic – something that no other Division I conference has done.
Then I remembered it was February.
McDermott acknowledged that this “unprecedented opportunity” for senior athletes considering graduate studies at Harvard may be “difficult to take advantage of” due to the decision’s timing, according to the Crimson.
Former Harvard men’s hoops captain Chris Egi on Thursday’s news:
As is, this is feels like too little too late… Deadlines to apply to many grad schools, like the Harvard Kennedy school for example (Dec 8th) have passed. SAs who weren’t thinking of Grad school are cram for tests and many have already accepted jobs. https://t.co/3Gj7wx59OG
— Christopher E. Egi (@chrisegi15) February 11, 2021
The Ivy League’s policy of not allowing athletic redshirts or graduate students to play varsity sports has created a glut of quality transfers in the NCAA transfer portal.
There are also more than 20 Ivy League men’s basketball players currently in the portal, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, who noted that six of the top 25 players in ESPN’s transfer rankings are from the Ancient Eight.
It’s disappointing that the Ivy League couldn’t have made this decision much sooner so that the students who make Ivy men’s and women’s hoops what they are had more time to plan their futures, just as their decision to cancel winter sports, while laudable and expected, should have been made earlier to allow them to change plans more easily.