The team’s conclusion may be influential for other college presidents since they consider how to handle the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the first Division I conference to suspend football for the fall.
The Ivy League presidents placed all sports hold Wednesday until at least January, making it the first Division I conference that will not play soccer as scheduled in the autumn due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Because of this, a wide array of sports, from football and men’s basketball to cross country and sailing, have been placed in limbo. Practices could take place in the fall, starting with the restricted individual and small group workouts, however, requirements would need to grow dramatically for the sport to be performed next year.
The presidents said in a statement that sports could not be played beneath campus-wide policies which include restrictions on pupil and staff travel, social distancing needs, and limits on group gatherings.
“With the information available to us today regarding the continuing spread of the virus, we just do not believe we can create and maintain an environment for an intercollegiate athletic competition which meets our needs for security and acceptable levels of risk,” the announcement read.
As for the possibility of playing soccer in the spring, Princeton soccer Coach Bob Surace characterized it thusly: “One word. Hope.”
He added that a vaccine, better therapies, and people following health guidelines would be mandatory if there weren’t any possibility of playing in the spring, however, there’s also the fear of another wave of the virus that winter.
Although the caliber of football in the Ivy League, which plays at the Football Championship Subdivision degree and doesn’t allow athletic scholarships, is much below that of their best programs in the nation, the choice made by the eight presidents may have great influence among college leaders nationwide tasked with deciding when and how sports will return to college campuses.
“I believe other conferences across the country are going to follow,” Columbia athletic director Peter Pilling said Wednesday night.
The same day that the Ivy League announced its decision, Ohio State and North Carolina became the most recent colleges to suspend voluntary workouts following outbreaks among athletes.
Hints that the Ivy League was leaning this way became better on Monday after three of its colleges declared plans for reopening their campuses to just some students in the autumn. One of these schools, Harvard, said it would only let 40 percent of its students — mostly freshmen — back on campus and all classes would be held. For the spring semester, Harvard said, freshmen will be sent off-campus and seniors would be permitted to return for their final semester.
Football coaches had anticipated this decision because the Ivy League declared last week that it would decide on the destiny of autumn sports Wednesday — and in the intervening days, two trainers said they’d been not asked about making contingency plans. Robin Harris, the executive director of the Ivy League, declined an interview request before the decision was announced.
“It’s been kind of like Santa Claus and the Easter rabbit,” Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens said. “You sort of knew they did not exist and then finally you were told.”
The Ivy League universities, which are buoyed by large endowments and an effective academic brand, have mostly been able to remove money from decisions concerning athletics. For instance, the Ivy League became the previous Division I league to maintain a conference basketball tournament and is the only league that prohibits its soccer teams from playing in bowl games along with a playoff. And since the beginning of the college football season has crept into August, the Ivy League has steadfastly stuck to a 10-week season end on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This past year, it was due to begin on Sept. 19.
The Ivy League also did not flinch on March 10, when it became the first convention to cancel its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, just before the coronavirus started to run rampant in the Northeast.
Almost immediately, the Ivy League has been criticized for overreacting, with some of the harshest criticism coming out of its players and coaches. The circumstances today, however, are different. The nation is firmly in the midst of a pandemic, not because of its nascent edges.
“There was a suddenness that does not exist today,” said Pilling, the Columbia athletic director. “Obviously there’s an enormous amount of disappointment because everyone here wants to compete but people recognize the severeness of this pandemic.”
There’s a sense, from the Ivy League, that playing football in the spring is a moonshot. The Ivy League spokesman Matt Panto said that the conference had not sought a waiver by the N.C.A.A. to move football (or other sports) into the spring, something the official believed will be required.
And in a sign of how impactful the reduction of a year may be on a wide swath of athletes, the Ivy League stated it would consider granting the fifth year of eligibility for athletes — something that stood firmly against when spring sports had been canceled.
While pro basketball, soccer, and baseball have experienced stopping minutes in their current returns with sprinklings of positive tests and hiccups in the testing procedure, a recurrence of college sports is even more problematic because of its players — unlike the professionals — aren’t paid.
Also, the surge in cases in several pockets of the country over the last month has generated more obstacles for the return this fall of college football, which many schools rely on for millions of dollars in television, ticket, and promotion revenues that gas athletic departments.
The relatively simple task of bringing soccer players back to campus for voluntary workouts has in some cases proved so problematic that schools have been forced to abandon them because of Covid-19 outbreaks in their ranks.
Colleges at the lower levels of the N.C.A.A., which is composed of more than 1,100 colleges, have already begun to offset fall sports. Williams, Bowdoin, Swarthmore, and Grinnell — all tiny liberal arts schools that play at the nonscholarship Division III level — are one of those to call their fall sports seasons.
So, too, have the dozen Division II schools in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, which in May announced that it would cancel fall sports soon following the Cal State University chancellor said that lessons this fall will be held online with few exceptions. But those schools, like Swarthmore, do not play soccer.
The Patriot League, which comprises Lehigh, Lafayette, Fordham and other mostly tiny colleges in the Northeast with limited athletic scholarships, announced late last month that its fall sports — such as football, which competes in the F.C.S. degree — would play with league contest from the end of September before Thanksgiving, yet travel by airplane wouldn’t be permitted. Fordham declared Tuesday that it had canceled its first three games — such as a Sept. 12 game at Hawaii. Last week, Lafayette canceled its season-opening match at Navy.
Shortly after that, the Patriot League declared its limitations, Morehouse College, which competes in the Division II level, became the first scholarship program to cancel its football season. The decision by Morehouse, a historically Black college, emphasized a troubling prospect: that if the faculty played football it might potentially harm even more African American people, which during comorbidity variables, living conditions or inadequate access to health care have demonstrated to be more vulnerable to the most severe impacts of the virus.
When asked in an interview how he foresaw college leaders reacting to the recent uptick in cases, Morehouse President David A. Thomas explained: “I would expect every president asks themselves that question: Why am I in business?