Wisconsin won't allow senior spring sports athletes to return in 2021

Detroit News staff and wires

Wisconsin has joined the Ivy League in not allowing senior spring sports athletes to return to school next year for their final year of eligibility.

The Ivy League decided last week not to allow its spring sports 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.

Wisconsin won't grant senior spring athletes an extra year of eligibility, even though it is permitted by the NCAA.

"UW Athletics places tremendous emphasis on its student-athletes earning an undergraduate degree and having a great competitive experience," Wisconsin said in a statement. "In the case of the UW spring student-athletes to which the NCAA's waiver would apply, a substantial percentage of the student-athletes are scheduled to earn their degrees before next spring. In spite of today's uncertainties, we will do everything possible to support our student-athletes as they work toward those degrees.

"The athletic department has made the decision to not pursue waivers that would extend the eligibility of our senior student-athletes. Student-athletes in their fourth year of eligibility have concluded their careers with us. This group of student-athletes has our full support up to, including and beyond graduation. They are Badgers for life and we are greatly appreciative of the way they have represented our department and the university."

Ivy League schools Harvard, Yale and Princeton also will not allow their spring athletes to withdraw from school and return next year to preserve an extra year of eligibility.

It's not a league-wide decision, though. Other schools are not encouraging seniors to withdraw but will still allow them that option if they choose.

"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, 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 messeges from their 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."

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.

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.