Senior punter and kicker Cameron Nizialek will play for the University of Georgia next season as a graduate student, he announced via Twitter on Monday.
Ivy League rules state that players are not allowed to participate in conference athletics beyond their first four years on campus, with the exception of cases in which players withdraw from school for a year, as basketball star Alex Rosenberg, CC ’16, did two years ago. Given that Nizialek saw no action as a first-year at Columbia, NCAA rules state that he is allowed an extra year of eligibility to compete—just not at an Ivy League institution.
Nizialek’s situation is similar to that of former Columbia guard Grant Mullins, CC ’16, who left the Ancient Eight to continue his career at UC Berkeley as a graduate student. Mullins remained eligible according to NCAA regulations after sitting out his junior season due to injury while remaining enrolled at Columbia.
Nizialek will now continue his career in the SEC—one of the most successful college football conferences in the nation.
At Columbia, Nizialek earned an All-Ivy League Honorable Mention selection in 2015. He took punting, kickoff, and placekicking duties that year but largely stuck to punting this season, sharing that role with junior Matthew Panton. In his 34 punts of 2016, Nizialek averaged just under 45 yards per punt and boasted nine punts of over 50 yards.
His skills could help an Athens, Georgia program that finished with an 8-5 record overall last season but saw struggles in its punting game. Starting punter Marshall Long averaged just 38.7 yards per punt last season and is currently recovering from knee surgery. The other Bulldog punter, Brice Ramsey, averaged just 34.7 yards per punt, over 10 yards worse than Nizialek’s 44.8.
As a Bulldog for the 2016-2017 season, Nizialek will likely challenge to take on punting responsibilities. However, with uncertainty surrounding current placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship’s scholarship status, it’s possible that the Light Blue specialist could fill in for placekicking duties.
Both Columbia and Georgia Athletics could not be reached for comment.