As Cornell joined the growing number of universities across the country in announcing its plans for the upcoming fall semester, the state of athletics remains in limbo — although the Ivy League is giving a glimpse into what a football season may look like.
According to a report by TMG Sports, the Ivy League is currently considering two options. The first option involves Ivy League teams starting the season in late September with a seven-game schedule consisting of only conference opponents.
The second — and more unorthodox — option would see the football season take place in the spring instead of the fall. Teams would begin practice in March, kick off the season in April and wrap up by mid-May.
Unlike other FCS schools, Ivy League teams only compete in a 10-game season featuring seven conference bouts and three non-conference tilts. As of now, Cornell is scheduled to host Marist on Sept. 19.
The report made no mention of the conference’s plan to restart other fall sports. In a statement to ESPN, a spokesperson for the Ivy League did not confirm the report and reiterated that no decision had been made.
“The Ivy League Council of Presidents has been meeting frequently via videoconference this spring,” the statement read. “Should the Council of Presidents make a determination regarding the status of intercollegiate athletic activity at Ivy League schools, that decision will be communicated first to Ivy League directors of athletics, coaches and student-athletes, followed by the wider Ivy League campus community, media and public.”
Luckily for the Ivy League, there are several factors that can aid its reactivation plan. For example, Ivy League schools are not likely to encounter fields filled with fans. At Cornell’s five home games last year, the average attendance was 4,295 — Schoellkopf Stadium has a capacity of 25,597. If the Ivy League allows spectators, there will likely be enough room to accommodate them, even with social distancing measures.
In addition, Ivy League athletes do not return to campus for voluntary workouts. On the other hand, FBS schools that welcomed back athletes — such as Clemson and Kansas State — have seen numerous positive tests for the coronavirus. Clemson has tallied 47 positive tests, and Kansas State shut down its workouts for a two-week period following 14 positive tests.
Robin Harris, the Ivy League Council of Presidents’ Executive Director, said to ESPN that the absence of these workouts will benefit the conference.
“Candidly, we benefit by not having these workouts typically in the summer and certainly not now with our campuses not yet open, so we are going to learn as others come back and we see what happens,” she said. “We’re going to benefit. I’m on calls with other commissioners several times a week and we share information, our athletic directors are talking to their counterparts within the state, within the city, because there is no playbook for this.”
The Ivy League’s actions set a precedent back in March and its decision for the fall could set the course for other universities.
In March, the Ivy League was the first conference to take steps to address the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic as it canceled the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Cancellations and postponements across the collegiate and professional levels swelled soon after.
University of Pennsylvania President Amy Guttman wrote in the school’s reopening plan that the Ivy League’s decision is expected in July.
President Martha E. Pollack’s fall reactivation plan makes no mention of athletics, but she promised a series of town hall meetings to address questions and noted that “many of the details are still being worked out, but also we may need to adjust our plans even before the semester starts depending on the progress of the virus.”