Cornell football head coach David Archer ’05 expressed little hope in the Ivy League holding a football season in the spring. The team is currently not competing during the fall semester after the Ivy League prohibited varsity athletic competition.
In an interview with The Sun, Archer confirmed that the team is moving into Phase 2 of the Ivy League’s reactivation plan, several weeks after the University approved the move into Phase 1. A move to Phase 2 allows in-person meetings and increases the conditioning cap to two hours per session.
Despite this positive development, Archer is not optimistic about the prospects of a spring season.
“I think playing in the spring has a super, super slim chance,” Archer said. “Huge hats off to Cornell — this testing is robust, the kids are unbelievable in following the compact, and this virus is contained on campus. … That being said, we’re still just moving to Phase 2.”
Archer noted that every other Ivy League university needs to approve the return of its students back to campus before collegiate sports can resume. This semester, Cornell was the lone school in the Ancient Eight to invite all of its students for an in-person experience.
There is also the issue regarding the medical feasibility of playing a fall sport in the spring and then gearing up to return in the fall.
“You have to ask the medical people, ‘Is playing football medically appropriate to play in the spring season and then turn around and play in the fall?’” Archer said. “If we play the spring, there will surely be a plan to play in the fall because there will be a vaccine.”
In addition, there are further complications that arise from fall sports, such as football, moving their competition to the spring. Even if there are no COVID or medical issues associated with playing, a logjam will result in the use of facilities as dozens of teams must share limited space.
“How on earth do you appropriately schedule the facilities, the training staff, and all of the shared resources at work?” Archer said. “Who would you give priority to? Would you say, ‘Man, the winter and spring kids got their season crushed [last year] — I guess they get first priority.’ And then what do we do, go to Schoellkopf at 10 o’clock at night and try to practice? … That’s why I say the likelihood of a spring competitive football season is next to none.”
Though Archer is not hopeful about football returning next semester, he has higher hopes for spring sports.
“I think that still has a chance because rightfully so in the spring, they would be in-season,” Archer said. “That would be their traditional season, so I think that still has a chance, and I’m hopeful — as we all are — that there can be a more permanent solution to the virus sooner rather than later.”
In the meantime, the football team has been ramping up its in-person practices after spending the first part of the semester in a virtual capacity. After the move to Phase 1, the team has practiced four days a week from Monday to Thursday, splitting time between lifting and conditioning.
With these practice conditions, two groups of 10 or fewer players will show up at a given time slot during one of the days. There are three slots at 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. One group is positioned on one half of the field while the other group occupies the other half.
The players are positioned on five-yard increments to ensure proper social distancing, and all participating players and staff wear masks.
While the conditions are far from ideal, the ability to restart a small portion of the in-person athletic experience has been a morale-booster for the players.
“What I am seeing from the team is that being able to be around their teammates and do something has been such a huge mental, emotional lift,” Archer said. “I really think they’re like the rest of the student body in being really resilient, optimistic people. They’re team players, and they’re sacrificing a lot to keep the community healthy in the hopes that we can progress to the new normal — whatever that might be.”