Ivy League to Allow Senior Student Athletes to Compete as Grad Students Due to Covid-19


Harvard College senior student athletes whose seasons were canceled due to Covid-19 will have the opportunity to compete for Harvard as graduate students next year in a departure from longstanding Ivy League policies barring graduate students from competition, Harvard Athletics Director Erin McDermott announced Thursday.

The Ivy League presidents granted a temporary waiver to Ivy League senior student athletes who lost a season of competition due to the coronavirus, McDermott wrote in an email to senior student athletes.

The Ivy League will allow current senior student athletes an extra year of eligibility as full-time graduate students during the 2021-2022 academic year. Students must be admitted as graduate students “through regular channels” at their undergraduate university to be eligible for this waiver, McDermott wrote. Students must receive approval from their fifth year advisor and the Ivy League office.

The waiver is an “unprecedented opportunity” for senior athletes considering graduate studies at Harvard, McDermott wrote, though she acknowledged it may be “difficult to take advantage of” due to the decision’s timing.


“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,” she wrote. “This change is a direct result of the pandemic and will not be available in future years.”

After canceling the spring 2020 sports season in March as a result of the then-nascent health crisis, the Ivy League also canceled its fall and winter sports seasons for the 2020-2021 year because of the pandemic.

After various collegiate athletics conferences canceled spring sports last spring, the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to athletes who were not able to compete due to Covid-19. In response to the NCAA ruling, the Ivy League released its own announcement, doubling down on its longstanding policy barring graduate students from participating in athletics.

McDermott’s email Thursday marks a reversal of that statement.

The Ivy League is expected to announce its decision for the spring sports season later this month.

—Staff writer Alex Koller can be reached at

—Staff writer Taylor C. Peterman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @taylorcpeterman.