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Is It Likely That Ivy League Lacrosse Players Could Get Another Year Of Eligibility?

Update (March 13, 2020): Multiple sources, including Jeff Goodman, have reported that the NCAA is expected to grant relief for the use of a season of competition for its spring sports, including college lacrosse. You can read about the news by clicking here. This should alleviate concerns for many NCAA athletes on losing a year of eligibility — there are different rules in place at non-Ivy League schools for their student-athletes to extend their playing careers with regards to academic expectations —with additional consideration needing to be made for athletes and lacrosse players in the Ivy League. Based on the update below, the Ivy League was expected to have requested a blanket waiver for all spring sports, and would indicate that the conference would likely allow players — most particularly seniors — to have accommodations to play an additional year in the conference as most Ivy League athletes are restricted to playing their four seasons within four academic years. Based on this information, skip below to the section titled “Academic Expectations” in order to understand what needs to be considered from an academic standpoint based on NCAA and Ivy League conference policies as it relates to today’s news about the NCAA providing relief. Additional expectations, including whether Ivy League lacrosse players would likely actually return to play their final season are mentioned beneath that section.

UPDATE (March 12, 2020): Dana O’Neil, a senior writer for The Athletic, has reported that Ivy League personnel had told her that it would likely request a blanket waiver/extra year for all spring sport athletes. To understand what that means given this information, skip to the section below titled “Academic Expectations” and read through the end. Given the context of the situation from the rest of today’s news of spring college athletics being canceled as the dominos fell today beginning with the Patriot League canceling its spring seasons in addition to pro sports like the National Lacrosse League, it would likely put additional pressure on the NCAA to grant athletes an extra year of eligibility for spring sports if they chose to use it, and to not just be a situation confined within the Ivy League.

News broke yesterday that the Ivy League was canceling its spring sports, including men’s and women’s lacrosse. Amherst canceled its spring seasons the day before. Concern spread over how this year’s seniors and other Ivy League lacrosse players at these institutions and other colleges would be dealt with as their final seasons are being canceled. Players like Michael Sowers and TD Ierlan had represented the Ivy League incredibly well this year, and it’s unfortunate that this is the situation we find ourselves in.

We decided to take a look at what we could find on NCAA and Ivy League eligibility policies — which are unique in and unto themselves — and have some observations below on whether Ivy League lacrosse players could have another year to play.

This may be familiar to some but not likely for most given that Ivy League rules are a bit unique, so we thought it would be worth the look.

If you want the short version, skip to the section near the bottom titled, “So… What Was All Of That, Exactly?” to get the highlights and avoid what is probably a bunch of rambling. If you are interested in some of the sources and reasoning I used, then kick-out the La-Z-Boy, get your reading glasses and make sure you haven’t left anything in the oven that could burn your house down. I did include some section highlights for the main body of the text, so hopefully that helps make it easier to get through.

There Could Be Potential For Ivy League Lacrosse Players To Have Another Semester Of Eligibility After The Ivy League Lacrosse News From Yesterday

Here’s The Sources We Found

There could be potential for an extra year of play for those seniors affected. We’ll take a dive into NCAA and Ivy League policy, and give our thoughts as to how this would work.

First, from the Princeton University Athletics website:

In the Ivy League, student-athletes are expected to use their eligibility within their first four years of actual enrollment. As such, there are no redshirt options. There are limited waiver options for a fifth year (fourth season of competition) which should be reviewed before a student-athlete is away from Princeton for the academic year. For those student-athletes who do not compete in all four seasons while enrolled at Princeton, there are opportunities to play that fourth season as a graduate student at another school. In both of the above scenarios, the student-athlete should meet with Kelly Widener in the Compliance Office as early as possible.

If a student-athlete chooses to transfer to another institution before graduating from Princeton, a Notification of Transfer form must be completed prior to any communication between the student-athlete and a coach from another institution. A student-athlete who does not use four seasons of competition while at Princeton may consider using a season in graduate school.

yale lacrosse ivy league lacrosse ivy league sports ivy league athletics ncaa division i lacrosse college lacrosse
Photo by Tommy Gilligan/LaxAllStars

The question for us is how the Ivy League defines a season of competition for these players to continue playing for their respective teams. Pursuing a graduate season at a non-Ivy League school is likely an easier route in general terms, but there’s more information that could mean that there is the potential for seniors to still play their senior year at their Ivy League schools.

There’s three excerpts below that should help explain that.

We found this information in The Harvard Crimson:

The rules, though, are more friendly to players on other teams. Athletes in sports that span just one semester (football in the fall or lacrosse in the spring, for example) can play five athletic seasons in eight academic terms by taking one offseason off. 

The Harvard’s Athletics website also provides some clarity:

Harvard stipulates that you must have a valid academic reason for extending your residency on campus beyond eight terms. If you are planning to use a 5th year of eligibility, Ivy League rules require that you meet with Shanna Kornachuck of Compliance, and Tom Dingman, Harvard’s eligibility officer and Associate Dean of the College, before applying for a ninth term waiver. If you decide to proceed after this meeting, your request must be approved by your Senior Tutor and Tom Dingman, and then by the Ivy League.

Then, consider this from the Brown University Athletics website:

Medical Hardship and Fifth (5th) Year Waivers

Student-athletes have eligibility [in the NCAA] for no more than four (4) seasons of intercollegiate athletic competition in any one sport, which ordinarily must be used within five (5) calendar years from their first full-time matriculation at any collegiate institution. However, under Ivy rules student-athletes are ordinarily expected to use their eligibility during their first four years of enrollment. The Ivy League does not allow “redshirts”. There are exceptions to this rule; please consult the Compliance Office for more information about Fifth (5th) Year Waivers.

NCAA rules pertaining to medical hardships state that you may compete in a maximum of three (3) contests or dates of competition, up to 30% of your team’s contests, and still qualify for a waiver. If you have suffered a season-ending injury or illness, you must let the Compliance Office staff know as soon as possible, even if you are unsure if you will pursue a waiver. This is because medical documentation and participation information must be submitted by the Compliance Office to the Ivy League office in the same calendar year as the season you have missed. Note that medical documentation must indicate dates and treatments prescribed, the date when you were declared unable to compete as well as the date you were officially cleared to resume competition. If you see a medical professional at home or off campus, it is your responsibility to make the records available to the Brown Athletic Trainers and compliance staff – they will be needed for any waiver request.
Cornell/Princeton Game Photos by Tommy Gilligan ivy league sports ivy league athletics ivy league lacrosse princeton lacrosse
Photo by Tommy Gilligan / LaxAllStars

Does This Mean That Seniors Could Have An Extra Season Of Ivy League Lacrosse Eligibility? Here Are The Factors To Consider

Eligibility Requirements

What this boils down to is whether the Ivy League or the NCAA will count this season as a season of eligibility for each of the spring sport players. The clear difference between the NCAA and the Ivy League is that the NCAA has that extra year for players to complete their four seasons of athletic participation (i.e. redshirt year). For Ivy League athletes that are juniors or younger, they would still at least have their fourth year of eligibility to play next year if the NCAA or even the Ivy League doesn’t grant an extra year of eligibility from canceling the Ivy League lacrosse seasons, but will have only played three complete seasons. No surprises there.

Based on the definitions of eligibility provided by the NCAA, we’ve already passed the mark for most Ivy League schools for their players to qualify under that definition.

Here are the Ivy League lacrosse teams lists of percentages of games they have played compared to the entire number of games for the season (rounded to the nearest whole percent):

  • Brown

    • Men’s: 33 percent (5-out-of-15 games played)
    • Women’s: 46 percent (7-out-of-15 games played)
  • Columbia

    • Women’s: 46 percent (7-out-of-15 games played
  • Cornell

    • Men’s: 36 percent (5-out-of-14 games played)
    • Women’s: 40 percent (6-out-of-15 games played)
  • Dartmouth

    • Men’s: 28 percent (4-out-of-14 games played)
    • Women’s: 33 percent (5-out-of-15 games played)
  • Harvard

    • Men’s: 33 percent (4-out-of-12 games played)
    • Women’s: 40 percent (6-out-of-15 games played)
  • Princeton

    • Men’s: 38 percent (5-out-of-13 games played)
    • Women’s: 33 percent (5-out-of-15 games played)
  • Penn

    • Men’s: 42 percent (5-out-of-12 games played)
    • Women’s: 33 percent (5-out-of-15 games played)
  • Yale

    • Men’s: 31 percent (4-out-of-13 games played)

    • Women’s: 33 percent (5-out-of-15 games played

Section Summary:
  • The Ivy League and NCAA have different policies on the number of academic semesters you can have to play your four years of college lacrosse.
  • Dartmouth Men’s Lacrosse is the only team who has played less than 30 percent of its games to this point and its players would qualify for a Fifth Year Waiver.
  • It’s also important to note that it seems each school handles Fifth Year Waiver applications on a case-by-case basis. I hope they’ve got some space in their filing cabinets.
Olivia Hompe - Tewaaraton 2017 Women's Finalists ivy league sports ivy league lacrosse ncaa division i women's lacrosse
Olivia Hompe (Photo courtesy Princeton Athletics)
Percentages And…Stuff

At this point, the Dartmouth Men’s Lacrosse team players have the best case for an extra year of eligibility given that all of the players on the team have played less than the required 30 percent of games to apply for a Fifth Year Waiver after missing this season. That would mean that the seniors for the Dragons have a good possibility of being back next year if they so choose.

If the NCAA or Ivy League does choose to rule this season ineligible, then underclassmen or juniors who began their academic and college playing careers in the spring semester of their first year in the Ivy League would be able to play an additional spring provided that this spring season was ruled ineligible without adding on any extra academic semesters. However, players that started in the fall of their first year would technically have nine academic semesters under their belt, which would disqualify them from play based on the limit of eight academic semesters with which to complete their four years of athletics eligibility.

Most of the other teams in the Ivy League have played over 30 percent of their games, but only by a small margin. That may have be a factor for consideration in the waiver application process given the nature of the reasons why the players were unable to complete their seasons. I don’t believe the NCAA has ever canceled entire seasons on this scale in this narrow of a time period before, so I don’t think there is a precedent for that. But, there have been instances of individual schools having specific programs’ seasons terminated based on violations of NCAA rule. Obviously, this is a much different situation so a lot of how this is handled will likely be based on current circumstances and not as much around how they’ve handled cases previously.

If the Ivy League and the NCAA rule that the 2020 NCAA Lacrosse seasons wouldn’t be counted or would be waived — which would likely depend on the outcome of how far reaching the effects of the effects of the coronavirus and the response to it are — then those seniors could potentially use what is deemed their fourth year of play again.

While this would also be incredibly unlikely, it would be interesting if a team’s season would then be defined as the games actually played and wouldn’t count games that were originally scheduled towards that 30 percent completion mark. There’s no reason to believe that would happen, and that idea is likely just a product of the fact that I’ve spent too much time reading through eligibility policies.

Section Summary
  • Fifth Year Waivers are possible but rarely exercised. If there was ever a strong case for it, this would be it.
  • There really aren’t any situations to compare this to if the NCAA or Ivy League wanted to make exceptions to their current rules, but there’s a lot of reasons why it would be reasonable to do so.
  • Athletes that were in their junior year or earlier are better off.
  • Dartmouth Men’s Lacrosse has unique shot shot at getting added eligibility for its players for the season being canceled this year.
  • Athletes that began their academic and athletic careers during the spring semester also have a better outlook.
Albany vs Yale 2018 NCAA Semifinals Ryan Conwell ivy league sports lacrosse yale albany america east
Photo: Ryan Conwell /
Academic Expectations

The question then becomes if the student is able to remain another year in school while making adequate academic progress as defined by the NCAA and what the Ivy League universities deem as acceptable.

The NCAA requires that all of its athletes make “satisfactory progress” towards their degrees. This is defined as having a minimum of six credits earned per semester with a total of 24 credits earned per academic year, with 60% of those credits needing to count towards degree requirements for your chosen field of study.

Most of these seniors at Ivy League schools are likely already going to be graduating this spring, provided that the universities can adequately continue classes and study (whether in-person or online) based on what the necessary academic requirements are and how the universities respond to the spread of the coronavirus. If a senior this year was able to become athletically eligible, the other part would be that as long as that player met those academic requirements for competing.

Of course, there’s always the chance that special considerations are made depending on the severity of what the situation is in relation to schools shutting down, etc. that are outside the scope of what are the current policies in place.

Section Summary: 
  • You need to take a minimum amount of credits each semester and for each year, enough of which check-off requirements for your degree.
  • The Ivy League normally pushes people in and out in four years, so it would probably be harder to be able to stretch your course load over an extra year the further along in school you are if you were to be granted an extra year of athletic eligibility in the Ivy League.
The Life Of An Ivy-Leaguer

The catch is that many students in Ivy League athletics tend to pursue careers and employment after their senior year of graduation, so it would likely be more rare for higher percentages of these seniors to return to play any potential final season of lacrosse or any other sport, based on the fact that Ivy League schools have stricter standards for pushing its students through their programs in the traditional four years. Most Ivy League lacrosse players and other Ivy League athletes have the potential to earn much more at whatever their chosen career path could be with their degrees from these schools as opposed to playing professional lacrosse or other pro sports. Plus, the Ivy League does not grant athletic or academic scholarships, so the students or their families would be having to pay an extra year of an Ivy League education.

Section Summary:
  • For players who have the option to play professional lacrosse, it makes much more sense to graduate and get a job, and to then play professionally.
  • The real reason those players, and others who wouldn’t have a chance of playing professionally, would want to play their final season is for the experience. Playing college lacrosse is certainly one that they may never have again.

So… What Was All Of That Exactly?

A Summary Of What You Probably Just Skipped Over

Simply put, the majority of Ivy League lacrosse seniors, juniors, underclassmen or other sports won’t likely get to play another year of college lacrosse or other college athletics. It’s a bit more nuanced and there is the potential for something to happen, but there are a few main factors.

The biggest difference-maker would be a merciful ruling by the NCAA and Ivy League that would allow for seniors to come back and compete in their final seasons.

Dartmouth Men’s Lacrosse senior lacrosse players have the best shot at getting an additional year of eligibility, from any Ivy League lacrosse players that are juniors and seniors from other teams (and, of course, other sports) who began their playing and academic careers during the spring of their first season of college undergraduate enrollment.

However, even if that were to happen, a good chunk of seniors from most Ivy League schools wouldn’t likely return for a final year of college sports given their futures with their potential jobs and other endeavors outside of their athletic careers, unless that player had a stronger desire to play out that additional year likely for the reason that they love the sport and the experience.

In the case of the senior lacrosse players, from a financial standpoint it would make more sense for those seniors to graduate, get a job and then play professionally in any of the pro lacrosse leagues rather than returning for an additional year of school they likely wouldn’t need to complete their degree. Only if those lacrosse seniors felt they needed that additional year to prepare for a pro lacrosse career, and that was their dream to do would that make the most sense for those individuals.

Final Thoughts

It’s A Very Unusual, Sad Situation To Say The Least

It’s sad that we are in this situation, and give our best wishes to all Ivy League sports staff and players out there. We respect the need for public safety surrounding an outbreak of disease, but also regret what effect this is having not only on the college athletes, but the employees and other staff associated with those universities. Plus, our sympathies go out to those that have been severely affected by the coronavirus. It would seem that we’ll be seeing more of this before we see less of it, unfortunately.

NCAA Division I Lacrosse is still considered by most to be the pinnacle of the sport in terms of its following and presence, and it is certainly tragic should any player, including one like Michael Sowers or a TD Ierlan, both favorites for this year’s Tewaaraton, should have to miss what would be their last season of college sports.

cornell men's lacrosse ivy league sports lacrosse ncaa men's division i college lacrosse
Photo by Tommy Gilligan/LaxAllstars

Our frustrations and reaction to the news was best summed up by a certain coach’s spirited reaction on the sideline, which you can see by clicking here. In case you missed the news yesterday for whatever reason, catch up by clicking here.

More information on the Ivy League sports and Ivy League lacrosse news situation and the entire situation of college athletics will be updated when it becomes available. Follow our coverage of the coronavirus situation as it affects lacrosse by clicking here.