"The NCAA is granting players an extra year of eligibility to make up for games that didn't happen as a result of COVID-19. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Senior athletes take advantage of NCAA rule

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Due to COVID-19, all seniors on athletic teams have been granted an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA.  

While some senior student-athletes have decided to leave this extra year of eligibility unutilized, others are coming back to Lehigh to compete as fifth-years and continue their education.

Marques Wilson of men’s basketball, Trevor Koski of men’s soccer and Pete Haffner of football are planning to use their extended eligibility at Lehigh in the next academic year.

Wilson said he is thrilled with the opportunity to be able to compete for another season. He said this past season was disappointing because the basketball team was unable to play in front of fans and have any out-of-conference games on the schedule. 

Koski said he thinks that it was necessary for the NCAA to grant athletes living through the pandemic an extra year of eligibility. 

“All of the players who missed out on a season deserve a chance to go have a final season,”  Koski said. “We usually get four years so it’s good that they are giving us the opportunity to do that.”

The extra year of play does not mean that athletes must stay at the school they compete for as an undergraduate. Players are eligible to transfer without having to sit out a year. However, Haffner said he is staying at Lehigh because of the relationships he has formed with his team. 

“I really like spending time with my teammates, they are my best friends in the world,” Haffner said. “I really feel like if I transferred somewhere else, I’d be letting them down.”

Like Haffner, Wilson said he is staying to compete another year here because of the strong bonds he has created with fellow Mountain Hawks. 

“The relationships I’ve made with my teammates and also with people on campus, like the staff who work at Rathbone and all the professors who congratulate me after a game, is the most rewarding part of playing here,” Wilson said. 

While all three of these athletes will be continuing their athletic careers at Lehigh, they are also continuing their academic careers. Haffner will be obtaining his master’s in accounting. Wilson is undecided but is leaning towards studying technical entrepreneurship. Koski has eight credits remaining to complete his undergraduate degree. 

Even though their Lehigh athletic careers are still unfinished, these athletes have all had meaningful experiences as a Mountain Hawk so far. 

Haffner said playing at the Naval Academy in front of all the Cadets was an incredible experience he had at Lehigh and is something that he will never forget. 

Koski said being a part of the team that won the 2019 Patriot League championship was his favorite memory as a Mountain Hawk.

“All the hours you put in makes you dream of winning a championship,” Koski said. “I was never fortunate enough to win any championships in my youth career. It was a dream come true in other words.”

Looking forward to the upcoming season, Koski said he is excited because the men’s soccer team will have a very experienced team as many other current seniors are staying to continue their athletic careers at Lehigh as fifth-year students. 

Wilson said his primary goal for his fifth year is to win a championship. 

“I want to get a chance to make the tournament so that’s what I am going to dedicate every moment this summer to working towards,” Wilson said. “I want to be the best leader that I can be as a senior who has a second chance to play.”

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