Citing Pandemic, Ivy League Cancels Fall Sports Season

July 9, 2020 Updated: July 9, 2020

The Ivy League will cancel all sports for the fall semester due to the pandemic, the presidents of eight member schools said.

In a joint statement published Wednesday night, the eight Ivy League presidents said they decided to postpone fall sports because their reopening strategies—including travel restrictions, social distancing requirements, and limited number of students coming to campus—make it impossible for student-athletes to compete.

“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 joint statement reads.

Currently, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania plan to bring all undergraduate students back to campus, while other Ivy League schools only allow a portion of students to return. Harvard University on Monday announced that 40 percent of undergraduates, including all first-year students, will be able to live on campus for the upcoming academic year.

College Students Told To Leave Campuses To Counter Spread Of Coronavirus
Students move out of dorm rooms on Harvard Yard on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on March 12, 2020. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Student-athletes and coaches can still train and practice, as long as they follow university and state guidelines, the presidents said. Decisions regarding winter and spring sports, including whether fall sports could be played in the spring of 2021, “will be determined at a later date.”

The Ivy League was the first conference to cancel its basketball tournaments in March, as the pandemic struck the United States and college students were told to go home or not return to campuses after spring break. Although that decision was seen at the time as an overreaction, according to ESPN, it set off a chain reaction of other conferences doing the same.

It is unclear whether major conferences like the Big 10, Big 12, and Pac-12 will follow the league’s lead in calling off tournaments. In a statement to ESPN, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the conference will continue to put “one foot in front of the other” unless local health or government officials deem it unsafe for fall sports to take place.

“The campuses are learning how to coexist with the virus, and so they’re learning more about the testing, and about how you go about managing it,” Bowlsby said. “We haven’t been told by public health officials or our local doctors or our scientific consultants that we should stop doing what we’re doing.”

“When we get that advice, obviously the safety, health and well-being of our student-athletes and staff is first,” he added.