The Ivy League announced Wednesday afternoon that its member institutions would not participate in sports in the fall, with no date set for resuming play as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the sports and entertainment world. No date is set for sports to return, or whether the participation ban would also impact winter and spring sports. A press release sent out by the league indicated a possibility that fall sports could be played in the spring.
That release framed the decision to halt fall athletics as a factor of the various Ivy League institutions placing campus-wide restrictions on student and staff travel as well as regulations on campus visitors, which Athletics must also adhere to – rendering intercollegiate competition impossible until those restrictions are lifted.
Ivy League’s Council of Presidents offered the following joint statement:
“As a leadership group, we have a responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of the students who attend our institutions, as well as the faculty and staff who work at our schools. These decisions are extremely difficult, particularly when they impact meaningful student-athlete experiences that so many value and cherish.
With the information available to us today regarding the continued spread of the virus, we simply do not believe we can create and maintain an environment for intercollegiate athletic competition that meets our requirements for safety and acceptable levels of risk, consistent with the policies that each of our schools is adopting as part of its reopening plans this fall.
We are entrusted to create and maintain an educational environment that is guided by health and safety considerations. There can be no greater responsibility — and that is the basis for this difficult decision.”
Consisting of eight private universities all based in the northeastern U.S., the Ivy League is the first Division I conference to make such an announcement for the upcoming athletics season. In March, it was also the first to call off its men’s and women’s basketball conference tournaments, doing so on March 10 – the first domino to fall before the entire NCAA March Madness was shut down two days later.
Athletics revenue is not a major factor in the decision-making for Ivy League institutions, which hold high academic prestige and enormous endowments. Football participates in the Football Championship Subdivision, which may have made the decision to scuttle the fall season far easier than institutions with more reliance on athletics on budgetary level. But it is certainly possible that the decision will serve as a bellwether for other conferences. The Patriot League had previously announced its intention to play league competition from September through Thanksgiving but bar teams from travelling by plane. Other schools, including many in the NCAA’s smaller divisions, have already announced their decisions to limit athletic competition in the fall.
“I think other conferences around the country are going to follow,” Columbia athletic director Peter Pilling told the New York Times Wednesday.