Some Ivies won't let seniors withdraw, return next spring

NEW YORK -- Ivy League schools Harvard, Yale and Princeton will not allow spring athletes to withdraw and return next year to preserve an extra year of eligibility.

It's not a leaguewide decision, though. Other schools are not encouraging seniors to withdraw, but will still allow them that option.

"In this unprecedented time, we explored all realistic options for senior spring student-athletes to compete again in the coming year," Yale athletic director Vicky Chun said in a statement. "After a thorough review together with President Salovey we believe it is important to follow our existing rules and regulations, which require a student who takes a personal withdrawal to be apart from the university for a full two semesters.''

Yale coaches informed their athletes of the decision Thursday afternoon. Princeton and Harvard athletes found out in email messages from athletic directors.

"We need all of our students -- laboratory scientists, performing artists, student-athletes, and others -- to persist and graduate, even in these difficult circumstances," Princeton said in a statement. "That is why we are fervently encouraging all of our students, athletes included, to continue on their current schedule for completion of their studies. For these reasons, Princeton has decided that it will not allow students who withdraw this spring to have an additional year of athletic eligibility at this University.''

The Ivy League decided last week 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 in the week. So withdrawing was a potential choice for a senior to get to play one more season next year. The move was consistent for the Ivy League with its policies.

The conference hasn't allowed athletes to participate in any sports as graduates. The Ivy League schools aren't the only ones not allowing a fifth-year to their spring athletes. Wisconsin also has decided not to pursue waivers extending the eligibility of its seniors.

Ivy athletes could still choose to transfer, however 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.

Penn athletic director Grace Calhoun, chairwoman of the NCAA Division I Council that approved the fifth-year exception, said ADs in the Ivy League had many discussions over the past few weeks about what to do.

"There are a couple of ways they could stay at Penn as undergraduates,'' Calhoun told the AP last week. "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.''

While many Ivy League schools aren't usually challenging for national championships, the conference is very strong in men's lacrosse. The Ivy League has three of the top teams in the country with No. 2 Cornell, No. 3 Princeton and No. 5 Yale.

The Tigers are led by Michael Sowers, who is one of the best lacrosse players in the country. He originally had said he would withdraw from Princeton, but later said on Twitter that he would stay.

On Thursday he 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 player hasn't publicly announced the move. Over 90 Ivy League senior spring-sports athletes have entered the portal in the past month according to the person.