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Many Harvard Athletes Will Forego Post-Grad Play Opportunity as Coronavirus Cancels Season

Many of Harvard College's athletes practice in facilities across the Charles River.
Many of Harvard College's athletes practice in facilities across the Charles River. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Ema R. Schumer, Crimson Staff Writer

The Ivy League and Harvard recently announced they would not allow students an extra year of eligibility due to the coronavirus despite an NCAA allowance. But many Harvard athletes say they did not consider doing so in the first place.

Ten out of 51 student-athletes interviewed — who span 15 of Harvard’s 16 varsity teams that compete during the spring season — said they plan to use their extra year of eligibility. Out of the remaining 41, 24 said they will not use the eligibility, and the other 17 said they are not sure.

Many spring athletes expected to make plays on the field or court this past month, but have instead sat on the sidelines watching different collegiate athletics bodies decide the fate of their varsity careers.

The first of those decisions came on March 11, when the Ivy League canceled the spring athletics season to slow the coronavirus outbreak. At the end of March, the National Collegiate Athletics Association decided to restore a year of eligibility to all Division I spring sport athletes. And on April 2, the Ivy League ruled it would not allow student-athletes to use eligibility as graduate students at any of the league’s member schools, adhering to a longstanding policy barring graduate students from varsity athletics.

Most recently, Harvard Athletics Director Robert L. Scalise wrote in an email to spring student-athletes Thursday afternoon that Harvard would not permit student-athletes to use the NCAA-granted eligibility at Harvard. Scalise advised athletes that they should not withdraw from the College this semester for the purpose of preserving their athletic eligibility — an option that some athletes said they were considering.

Harvard men’s lacrosse player Kamau I. “Isaiah” Dawson ’22 said that he was willing to take a semester off from Harvard to earn another season of competition. After receiving Scalise’s email, Dawson said he would now have to consider playing for another lacrosse program as a graduate student.

“I would love to end my career at Harvard, but at the same time, the thought of only having two years left of lacrosse, or the possibility of that, just is pretty frightening to think about,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve been doing forever, so I want to play as long as I can.”

For seniors, however, the decision is more urgent.

Harvard men’s lacrosse player Robert N. “Noah” Knopf ’20 said he knew when his season was canceled that he would never play college lacrosse again. He plans to teach history and coach lacrosse at Milton Academy outside Boston after college.

“It’s obviously a hard decision to make. But I think that that was kind of what I was thinking as soon as the season and our school year was canceled,” he said. “Partially just because I have a job for next year that I'm really excited about.”

Harvard softball player Isabelle H. Haugh ’20 also said she will forgo her extra year of eligibility to pursue a job in investment banking at Lazard in New York City following graduation.

“Love the game so much and it broke my heart that I wasn’t able to complete my season,” she said. “But I think that this opportunity that I have to go and work for Lazard is something that doesn’t come around often.”

Harvard men’s volleyball player William B. Sorenson ’23 said he has plenty of time — three years — to make his decision. Sorenson, who intends to concentrate in mechanical engineering, said his unique academic and athletic interests will limit the number of graduate programs he could even consider.

“The overlap between graduate schools that have great engineering programs, and DI volleyball schools is very, very small.”

Sorenson also said he believes Harvard athletes may be more reluctant to use an extra season because of their academic priorities.

“While I’m sure at a lot of other schools, there are people that are really going to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility, I think, at least specific to the Harvard team, people had this path that they set out for themselves early on and I think they’re gonna stick to that,” he said.

—Staff writer Ema R. Schumer can be reached at ema.schumer@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @emaschumer.

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CollegeDepartment of AthleticsSports AdministrationCoronavirus