The Ivy League, a college sports conference made up of “academically elite” institutions, has decided to cancel fall sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league will become the first D1 conference to cancel fall sports.
The league has not come out with a statement as of yet, but reports show that the conference will not have intercollegiate sports until Jan. 1, 2021. The Athletic’s Dana O’Neil reported that the Ivy League is hopeful to resume fall sports in the new year.
The Ivy League consists of eight schools: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, Penn, and Brown.
The group of schools has produced U.S. presidents, astronauts, public intellectuals and, yes, even a few professional athletes.
Miami Dolphins Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cleveland Browns offensive lineman JC Tretter, Dallas Wings rookie, Bella Alarie, and Jeremy Lin, are all Ivy League graduates and current professional athletes. Fitzpatrick and Lin went to Harvard and studied economics. Alarie was the No. 5 pick in this year’s WNBA draft after spending four years at Princeton. Tretter graduated from Cornell with a degree in industrial labor relations, which he uses as the NFL Players Association President.
Back on March 10, the Ivy League canceled its postseason basketball tournaments. The next day, it became the first college conference to cancel athletic events for the remainder of the academic year. At the time, the move was thought to be too extreme given the relatively low coronavirus caseload (245 infections nationwide).
A few hours after the Ivy League canceled sports, Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus in Oklahoma City, the NBA shut down and the state of sports world has never been the same. Within a day, major pro sports, college sports, and even recreational sports parks, shut down.
The Ivy’s may not be a powerhouse college athletic conference, but their decision today could shape the future of college sports in a pandemic.
Recently, one power five administrator told the Athletic that they expect “a big domino,” after the Ivy decision. “My suspicion is that the majority of presidents in the FBS are uncomfortable with the notion of playing football this fall but for various reasons don’t want to be the first to step out and say that.”
But Pac-12 commissioner, Larry Scott, does not think the conference’s decision will “have any bearing on what we do.” Additionally, Scott said that the Ivy League is in a “different part of the country, [and has a] different approach to college sports and college football.”
It’s true, the Pac-12 is in a different part of the country, the western U.S. home to hot spots in Arizona and California. If any conference should worry about the possible spread of coronavirus through sports, it’s not the Ivy League, where cases in northeastern states have declined for months. It’s the Pac-12 and the Southeastern Conference. Every school in the SEC is in a state with rising cases.
Power five conferences will be hard pressed to cancel fall sports, especially college football. Even if stadiums become fanless spectacles, some conferences have large television deals they don’t want to risk losing.
Other schools, like Stanford, are shedding intercollegiate sports. The cuts could incentivize athletic directors across the country to keep fall sports on schedule.
Still, the Ivy League thinks playing fall sports leaves too much of an unnecessary risk to its students, most of whom will take courses remotely.
Harvard recently announced that only 40 percent of it’s students will return to campus this fall and the majority of classes will be taught online. Princeton and Yale also announced similar plans for reopening.
If college classes are online, why should varsity practice be in person? The Ivy League answered by canceling fall sports. In the coming weeks, other college conferences will have to ask the same question.