August 2, 2012

Ivy League Approves Fifth Year of Eligibility for Rob Pannell

by Matt Forman | | Twitter

The Ivy League has approved a fifth year of eligibility for Rob Pannell. He continues to recover from a broken bone in his left foot that required surgery and caused him to miss most of the 2012 spring season. The foot is "at about 90 or 95 percent," he said.
© John Strohsacker/

One of the offseason's biggest stories has a resolution. Cornell on Thursday announced the Ivy League approved attackman Rob Pannell's application for a fifth year of athletic eligibility, and Pannell will return to Cornell for 2013.

Assuming Pannell is healthy — Pannell played in the Vail Lacrosse Shootout and is traveling to the Lake Placid Classic this weekend — his return thrusts the Big Red into national title contention. The 2011 USILA player of the year and Tewaaraton finalist, who has totaled 252 career points (103 goals, 149 assists), is arguably the nation's most lethal offensive weapon.

“Our coaching staff is ecstatic that Robert and his family have decided that it is in his best interest to pursue this course of action,” Cornell coach Ben DeLuca said in a release. “Robert is one of the best leaders and students that I’ve had the privilege to work with during my time at Cornell. He is a tremendous role model both on and off the field and he has been a phenomenal ambassador for the sport of lacrosse, the Cornell Lacrosse family, our University and the Ivy League.”

Pannell suffered a Jones fracture — a break of the fifth metatarsal (pinky toe) — on his left foot in the third quarter of Cornell's second game of the season, March 3 against Army. The injury relegated the 2012 Tewaaraton favorite and Lacrosse Magazine's preseason player of the year to the sidelines and onto his rolling push cart, which left a lasting image not anticipated when the season started. The Big Red were Lacrosse Magazine's preseason fourth-ranked team, but they missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in nine years.

"It was the hardest thing I ever had to go through. It was really tough. I would go to bed thinking about it. It was all that was on my mind," Pannell recently told Lacrosse Magazine in an exclusive interview. "If it is the toughest thing I ever have to go through in life, then I'm very blessed. At the time, and right now, with everything I've gone through, it was very, very tough. But I'll be better for it in the long run. It'll make me a stronger person. It's just another little bit of adversity than I had to go through."

In the interview, Pannell said he opted to have surgery on his foot instead of allowing it to heal naturally, hoping to hasten his recovery process for a potential return to action. A three-inch screw was inserted to fuse the snapped bone together on March 5. Doctors' initial estimates suggested Pannell might need 10-12 weeks to recover — New York Giants' wide receiver Hakeem Nicks sustained a similar injury, underwent surgery in May and hasn't yet returned to the field — but Pannell aggressively rehabbed to get back on the field by Cornell's rivalry game against Syracuse on April 10.

Pannell returned to practice a week later in an effort to return for Senior Day, April 21. But he re-injured the foot while performing a cutting drill in practice, just two days before Cornell lost to Ivy League foe Brown, 10-9.

"The pain was almost as bad the second time around. I felt like I broke it again," Pannell said. "In hindsight, it wasn't worth it. I didn't have any shot of playing last year. I was destined for failure."

Pannell took an incomplete in his "Introduction to Philosophy" course, since he wasn't able to complete the necessary schoolwork while meeting with doctors and rehabbing. He also would have missed the final exam.

Per Thursday's news, Pannell proved to the Ivy League his academic intentions were genuine. Among other factors, approval is contingent upon the student having an academic enrollment plan that is approved by institutional academic officials. He will take several classes next spring to add a second specialization — strategy — within his applied economics and management major and finance specialization. Pannell interned with Citigroup in New York City two summers ago, and has a potential job lined up with the company after graduating.

Pannell last week said his foot is "at about 90 or 95 percent."

He first returned to the field this summer at the Vail Lacrosse Shootout in early July, and even though he said "it still feels weird," Pannell scored a highlight-reel one-handed goal that became an overnight social media sensation. He later played in the Rhode Island Lacrosse Tournament, and is scheduled to play this weekend in Lake Placid.

Pannell's fifth year of eligibility was initially approved by Cornell's compliance department and he waited until Thursday for the nod from Ivy League.

"Cornell is home. I want to finish my career where I started," Pannell told Lacrosse Magazine. "I love Cornell. Everyone associates me with Cornell. They see that red jersey with No. 3, and they know it’s Rob Pannell.

One of the best players of his generation, the Red Mamba has made his mark on the Cornell history book. He trails legends Mike French and Eamon McEneaney by 44 points and four points, respectively, on Cornell's all-time list. He's also 101 points away from Matt Danowski's NCAA mark of 353.

Lacrosse Magazine will have more on Pannell's unique career journey, including further details on his injury, in its September issue.

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