Ivy League lacrosse creates tough decisions

Kelsey O’Loughlin, Senior Writer

In the United States, the most concentrated and well-known areas for lacrosse are the mid-Atlantic states, specifically Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. These areas produce the majority of the top-tier lacrosse players: Some choose to play at nationally recognized powerhouse college programs such as Maryland, Syracuse, Ohio State and Virginia, where they could play lacrosse at the highest level while also receiving a well-rounded education. However, there are also students who prioritize an exceptional education to playing on the best lacrosse team. A dominant section of sports for the Ivy League across the board is men’s lacrosse; their teams consistently put their institutions in the top 25 rankings. When the world shut down last spring, the Ivy league institutions were the first to cancel all sports. A whole year later, the fields, gyms and arenas are still closed on all campuses. These lacrosse players face a difficult situation: do they stay to earn an Ivy league degree, or do they leave for the love of the game?

In the spring and fall of 2021, the NCAA granted every spring and fall athlete an extra year of eligibility due to the coronavirus and season cancellation. Most student lacrosse players will have the option to stay at their universities or choose to move on to another university for their remaining year. Ivy League schools traditionally do not allow red shirts or graduate transfer students to compete in any sport, but this rule has been lifted to exclude the 2021-2022 season to allow for senior student-athletes to compete while obtaining a degree. Long before this exclusion was made, many highly touted lacrosse players had their eyes on the transfer portal. They did not choose Yale, Cornell or Dartmouth for their sport to be forgotten about; instead, they wanted their experience to be equally rigorous in sports and school. Since the Ivys do not offer any athletic money, these men pay their way with very few additional benefits. Regardless of the National Championship that Yale brought back to New Haven in 2018 and countless trips to the NCAA tournament, the student-athletes are coming to the harsh reality of where athletics’ priority stands.

As a coaching staff, the transfer portal is a critical tool, especially during this time. In lacrosse and all other sports, recruiting has become a double-edged sword for coaches, but a curse for those in high school. As a coach, you would prefer to take an athlete who has already had a year of college playing under his belt rather than an 18-year-old high school senior. High school recruits are being turned down by schools with their current players staying although there is little money left; an unexpected transfer that would contribute right away. The class of 2022 in all sports will, unfortunately, be left with very few options for recruiting, possibly settling on a school that was not their first choice or deciding not to play their sport so they can have the typical college experience at their respective state university.

This season, many graduate transfers from the Ivy league have made their decision already or are in the process of transferring from their institution for the love of the game. Ten of the top 40 grad transfers come from Ivy league colleges, according to Inside Lacrosse. The number one rated graduate student is Michael Sowers of Princeton. An attack from Dresher, Pa., was Princeton’s all-time leading scorer and Inside Lacrosse 2020 Player of the Year, and a first-team all-American. The second-ranked player is Jackson Morrill of Yale, who played a crucial role in the 2018 national championship game.

The Ivy league and lacrosse will be different. Will these men be able to play next spring? That’s a question no one has the answer to. Many would think it is a dumb decision to give up the opportunity to earn a degree from an Ivy league school to outsiders. For these student-athletes, it is about the love of the game and so much more than the prestige of the institution they attend. 

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