Courtesy of Yale Athletics

The Ivy League will extend graduating senior athletes the chance to compete as graduate students at their current schools next year in an exception to the league’s long-standing policies that restrict athletics to undergraduate students.

Yale senior student-athletes received an email from Yale’s Associate Athletic Director of Compliance Jason Strong on Thursday afternoon notifying them of the change for next year. Under normal circumstances, all athletes competing in the Ivy League must be undergraduates who use their eligibility over eight semesters of actual enrollment. But after the pandemic forced the cancellation of fall and winter seasons — spring competition is postponed through at least the end of February — the conference extended graduating seniors a year of graduate eligibility.

Ivy League Associate Executive Director Matt Panto confirmed the exception to the News but did not provide additional details on conversations between the eight Ivy League presidents.

“The Ivy League has granted a waiver to graduating seniors to permit them to participate as a graduate student at their current institutions during the 2021-22 academic year,” Strong wrote in an email obtained by the News.

Strong added that the waiver applies to graduating students who are “admitted to a degree granting graduate program.” He concluded his email by directing student-athletes to reach out to the Yale Athletics Compliance Office with any questions.

It remains unclear how many graduating seniors will be able to take advantage of the waiver. According to the admissions page for Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, deadlines for more than 50 programs — from chemistry and nursing to architecture and global affairs — passed in either December or January. Yale Law School, which has rolling admissions, lists Feb. 15 as its final application deadline.

“I think it’s great that they’re reevaluating their rules/policies given the circumstances,” senior men’s basketball forward Wyatt Yess ’21 told the News. “But it does seem a bit unfair to student athletes that either took the year off, made alternative plans or missed Yale graduate school application deadlines given how late this decision has been made.”

Last spring, the Ivy League’s eight presidents elected not to amend the conference’s eligibility rules, preventing student-athletes in the class of 2020 from competing as graduate students in the Ancient Eight.

“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 long-standing practice that athletic opportunities are for undergraduates,” Panto told the News at the time.

The Crimson reported a similar email sent to senior athletes from Harvard’s director of athletics, Erin McDermott, earlier on Thursday.

“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, according to The Crimson. “This change is a direct result of the pandemic and will not be available in future years.”

Yale’s associate athletic director of strategic communications, Mike Gambardella, declined to provide an additional comment on the decision, referring the News to the Ivy League office.

Enrolled students have until Monday, Feb. 15 to request a leave of absence for the spring term.

Eugenio Garza García |

James Richardson | 

Eugenio Garza García covers baseball, golf and athletic phasing. Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, he is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Economics and English.
James Richardson is a former staff reporter. He previously covered athletic administration, men's basketball and squash.