The Ivy League will make a decision next week on whether athletes at its schools can play sports this fall amid overall uncertainty about whether the novel coronavirus pandemic will jeopardize on-campus classes and the return of students.
Last week, TMG Sports reported the league was considering two possibilities for the football season, including skipping fall competition in favor of a seven-game, conference-only spring season from April to mid-May. The other option under consideration was pushing the season to a late September start with a seven-game schedule against conference opponents only. The Ivy League normally plays a 10-game schedule; this year’s is set to begin Sept. 19.
Forbes reported that the spring option seemed likely. “If I was placing a bet, I think it’s 98 percent, 99 percent likely that this thing is moving to the spring for the fall sports based on everything I’ve heard,” an unidentified person familiar with the situation told the outlet. “The financial ramifications of whatever decision they’ve made, you need to have plenty of time to start working on those things. It’s not like they’re going to wake up the morning of the 8th and go with something. The decision’s been made.”
Ivy League schools don’t compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision, but the conference is influential, just as it was in the spring when March Madness was canceled.
On March 10, it was the first college sports body to cancel its basketball conference tournament, making a decision that was initially seen as an overreaction. Four weeks before the NCAA men’s basketball national championship game was scheduled to take place, Robin Harris, executive director of the league, held conference calls with league presidents, who were listening to their schools’ medical experts, and other sports quickly followed suit.
“As the situation changed daily, if not more often than daily, and as the situation became worse very much consistent with what all these medical experts were predicting and as our schools were implementing their own policies for campuses, that’s what influenced our decision about athletics,” Harris told The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore in April. “We went from, in the span of a few days, the presidents trying to come up with a policy for limited attendance so we could still have the basketball tournaments. That was seriously considered on Monday morning, March 9. By Tuesday, we had canceled the tournaments. We had limited attendance for spring sports. And then Wednesday canceled everything. That’s how quickly things were changing.”
Harris said she realized the virus was going to affect the fall sports calendar, too.
“If we don’t have students in dorms, if we don’t have students on campus, I don’t see how we would ever have athletics competition,” Harris said then. “That, to me, seems the threshold: When do students come back?
“You have the students back, let’s say. Does that mean we can return to normal athletics competition with what we expect in terms of fan attendance, or are we going to have to have some limitations on fan attendance? … You kind of have to peel it back in reverse order. If we can have the athletic teams interacting, then can we have competition? Can we have travel to allow the competition to occur? And can we have fans?”