This article has been updated.
After canceling the fall and winter sports seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Ivy League Council of Presidents will allow current senior student-athletes to play as graduate students during the 2021-2022 season, according to a statement obtained by ESPN Thursday afternoon.
The news marks a significant shift from the Ivy League’s regular policy, which denies student-athletes from redshirting or participating as graduate student-athletes. But the Ivy League intends for the one-time waiver to be temporary.
“This change is a direct result of the pandemic and will not be available in future years,” the statement read. “The waiver provides current fourth-year students the opportunity to complete their athletics experience at their current institution in 2021-22 after staying on track to graduate in four years.”
The waiver will only be available to degree-seeking graduate students who have received proper approval from their institution’s fifth-year advisor and the Ivy League Office.
When the Ivy League opted to cancel winter sports, student-athletes across the conference — including four seniors from Cornell’s men’s basketball team — entered the transfer portal in hopes of exercising their final year of eligibility outside of the Ancient Eight.
It remains to be seen if the Cornellians who previously entered the transfer portal will now pursue their final year of eligibility as graduate student-athletes at Cornell or at a different institution.
Senior forward Riley Voss is one of the men’s basketball players who entered the transfer portal and now must consider whether or not to take advantage of this new opportunity and return to play for the Red in the 2021-2022 season.
“We’re fortunate to be able to represent the University through competition and that’s just something that I think a lot of us would look forward to doing,” said Voss.
For a few athletes, the late nature of the Ivy League’s update in policy has complicated their plans. According to Voss, several players around the league have already made decisions about where they are going to graduate school next year. Had these players known about the policy change or even the potential for such an option, they might’ve made a different decision.
Voss and the rest of the team were shocked by the Ivy League’s sudden shift in policy.
“I’d say we’re all a little surprised, just because we didn’t know that it was an option … [or] that it was even a conversation that was being had,” Voss said.
Though limited to only Zoom meetings for now, the Red must discuss how the announcement will affect its team dynamics in the coming months.
“We all have to get together, we have to talk to our coaching staff, talk to each other, talk to our families, parents and come up with a decision,” Voss said.
In addition to Voss, senior guards Bryan Knapp and Terrance McBride, as well as the 2019-2020 season’s leading scorer for the Red, senior forward Jimmy Boeheim, could potentially return for the 2021-2022 season.
As a next step, Voss mentioned that the athletes will meet with the administration to learn more about the policy. Many logistical questions must be discussed, including application due dates and procedural steps in order to qualify for the waiver.
“I think there’s still a lot of questions that a lot of us have regarding this new policy,” Voss said.