Vaibhav Sharma

Following the NCAA Division I Council’s vote to grant an extra season of eligibility to spring athletes Monday, the Ivy League announced Thursday it will not amend the conference’s existing eligibility guidelines, preventing spring athletes from competing as graduate students in the Ancient Eight.

According to a Thursday afternoon statement to the News from Ivy League Associate Executive Director Matt Panto, the eight Ivy League presidents made the decision after “extensive conversations around the League.”

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,” Panto said.

Unlike other Division I conferences, the Ivy League requires all athletes to exercise their eligibility in the first four years of enrollment at a member institution. Although the NCAA’s vote earlier this week bolstered hopes among Ancient Eight athletes that the conference might make an exception, today’s ruling provided a definitive answer.

For the Yale men’s lacrosse team, which was looking for redemption after last year’s loss in the NCAA Championship, many of the team’s seniors remain unsure about their futures.

Faceoff-specialist TD Ierlan ’20, the nation’s most dominant man at the X, has yet to make a decision about his future. Ierlan, a projected top pick in the Premier Lacrosse League, has not declared for the draft and will weigh all of his options.

“Once we know all the options me and my family will have to make a decision,” Ierlan said Wednesday night prior to the Ivy League announcement. “I won’t play for any other college and if given the choice would love to be back at Yale.”

Nevertheless, some athletes in the conference are withdrawing or delaying graduation in order to ensure another season of play. Michael Sowers, a senior attackman on the Princeton men’s lacrosse team, withdrew from the New Jersey institution last Friday, putting his final undergraduate semester on hold until the spring of 2021. Sowers is Princeton’s all-time leading scorer with 302 career points, and he intends to finish his career as a Tiger.

By withdrawing, Sowers has revealed a potential workaround for spring athletes who would rather play their final seasons at the same school, rather than entering the transfer portal to play at another institution. Since the rest of the NCAA allows for athletes’ four years of eligibility to be completed over a span of five years, spring athletes also have the option to graduate from their institutions this May, enter the transfer and play their final season elsewhere. 

Other athletes have accepted the League’s decision and intend to graduate this spring as planned.

“This whole crisis has been particularly difficult for a lot of senior athletes, and I’m sure there will be a lot of people that are disappointed by the news,” Chrissie Klingler ’20, the captain of the Yale sailing team, said. “But at the same time I understand that the Ivy League has its own academic things to uphold.”

Klingler also mentioned that this decision will likely generate a disparity between Ivy League teams and other Division I conferences in future years, since other schools are able to retain their senior class.

It remains unclear whether withdrawal would allow some student-athletes to return to Yale for the spring 2021 season. Yale College Academic Regulations stipulate that students who withdraw for personal reasons must “remain away” for at least one fall term and one spring term, in either order, not including the term during which withdrawal occurred. In addition to withdrawal for personal reasons, regulations specify that students can also withdraw for academic, medical, financial and disciplinary reasons.

Associate Athletic Director Mike Gambardella referred comment to the Ivy League statement and said Yale had no current comment on the Thursday decision or the possibility of withdrawal.

Update, April 2, 8:40 p.m.: This article’s headline has been updated to clarify the fact that Thursday’s Ivy League decision did not completely rule out the potential for fifth-year undergraduates to compete in the Ivy League next spring. As noted in the article, some athletes may be able to take advantage of withdrawal policies at individual institutions, like the case of Princeton’s Michael Sowers. Yale had no comment on the possibility of withdrawal when asked Thursday afternoon.

Update, April 3, 12:36 a.m.: This article has been updated to conform to the News’ copy style.

Akshar Agarwal | akshar.agarwal@yale.edu
Drew Beckmen | drew.beckmen@yale.edu
Margaret Hedeman | margaret.hedeman@yale.edu
William McCormack | william.mccormack@yale.edu