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Ivy League Cancels Fall Sports Season

Many of Harvard College's athletes practice in facilities across the Charles River.
Many of Harvard College's athletes practice in facilities across the Charles River. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Ema R. Schumer, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: July 8, 2020, 6:40 p.m.

The Ivy League will not allow sports to resume during the fall semester due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision will mark an end to the fall sports season and could bar many winter and spring sport athletes from participation in usual preseason activities. It will also curtail the winter sports season, which ordinarily begins in November.

The eight Ivy League presidents said in a statement published Wednesday evening that their commitment to the health and wellbeing of student-athletes and staff guided their decision to halt the start of sports.

“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,” the announcement states.

The League’s decision dovetails with member universities’ individual plans for the fall semester, many of which put restrictions on university affiliates’ travel, impose social distancing requirements, and limit the number of students allowed on campus.

Though Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania invited all of their undergraduate students to campus, other Ivy League universities will prohibit significant chunks of their student bodies from being on campus in-person. On Monday, Harvard announced that 40 percent of undergraduates would be allowed to enter the University’s gates this fall.

Harvard football captain Jordan G. Hill ’21 said he was disappointed but not surprised by Wednesday’s announcement, given Harvard’s restrictive plans for the fall and the dire state of the pandemic in the United States.

Without fall sports, there will be no annual Harvard-Yale football game this fall. Slated to occur in Cambridge this year, the Game was last canceled during World War II.

Still, Hill said he is telling his teammates to remain optimistic that they will return to the gridiron in the spring for a modified season if the health crisis improves. In its announcement, the League stated that it would decide at a subsequent date whether fall sports teams could compete in the spring.

“Control what you can control. And this is out of our control. We can’t really do much about it. Just on your day-to-day, keep working as if the season will come back eventually,” Hill said he told his teammates. “I think that there’s potential for us to be playing in the spring.”

Wednesday’s decision makes the Ivy League the first collegiate body to stake out a decisive position regarding fall athletics.

Four months ago, the Ivy League canceled spring sports in early March as a result of the then-nascent coronavirus crisis — becoming the first sports league in the country to do so. That decision both prevented winter athletes from competing in postseason events and cut short the spring sports season.

While fall athletes will bear the brunt of Wednesday’s decision, teams that compete in the winter and spring seasons will also be impacted. The League said it will issue guidelines for student-athletes and coaches to train and practice with each other in accordance with university and state-wide guidelines, including small group workouts and practice sessions.

Though Hill acknowledged he does not have any say in whether the Ivy League will allow football to return in the spring, he said he believes Wednesday’s decision might convince people not heeding public health guidance to alter their behavior.

“Maybe this will change their perspective a little bit,” he said. “I feel like for those of us who aren’t doing it, or who haven’t been doing it, this is just another way to see how your actions are going to have a detrimental effect on the things that you want to do.”

—Staff writer Ema R. Schumer can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @emaschumer.

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