The Ivy League on Wednesday became the first Division I conference to suspend all fall sports, including football, leaving open the possibility of moving some seasons to the spring if the coronavirus pandemic is better controlled by then.
“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,” the Ivy League Council of Presidents said in a statement.
“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.”
Though the coalition of eight academically elite schools does not grant athletic scholarships or compete for an NCAA football championship, the move could have ripple effects throughout the big business of college sports.
It was the Ivy League’s March 10 decision to scuttle its postseason basketball tournament that preceded a cascade of cancellations. All major college and professional sports were halted within days.
Football players in the Power Five conferences have already begun workouts for a season that starts on Aug. 29, even as their schools weigh whether to open their campuses to students or continue classes remotely. More than a dozen prominent programs from Clemson to LSU to Oklahoma have reported positive tests among their athletes in the few weeks since voluntary workouts began. Some have temporarily shut down the workouts, incluidng Ohio State and North Carolina on Wednesday alone.
Dr. Chris Kratochvil, the chair of the Big Ten’s infectious disease task force, said there is no “hard deadline” for a decision on sports.
“Of course, we watch everything that’s going on,” said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, whose league has schools in five states from West Virginia to Iowa and Texas. “But we’re going to go forward and do our own evaluation, and so far our scientists and medical people are telling us that we should stay the course, and learn as we go and move slowly and evaluate as we go.”
The Ivy League announcement affects not just football but soccer, field hockey, volleyball and cross country, as well as the fall portion of winter sports like basketball. Wednesday’s decision means Harvard and Yale will not play football in 2020, interrupting a rivalry known as The Game for the first time since the two World Wars.
“This news is disappointing for all of us,” Harvard athletic director Erin McDermott said. “While the Fall 2020 experience will be unlike any other, I am confident that we will find positive opportunities in this challenging time. We will keep moving forward through this painful but temporary experience, together.”