Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

The Ivy League canceled winter sports on Thursday. Spring competition will start at the end of February at the earliest.

November 12, 2020

Ivy League Cancels Winter Sports, Delays Spring Competition

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This post has been updated.

The Ivy League extended its moratorium on varsity athletics Thursday, when it announced that winter competition would not take place for the 2020-21 season.

“Regrettably, the current trends regarding transmission of the COVID-19 virus and subsequent protocols that must be put in place are impeding our strong desire to return to intercollegiate athletics competition in a safe manner,” the Ivy League presidents wrote in a joint statement.

The league’s decision also affected spring sports, which will be postponed at least until the end of February.

The announcement came the same day that Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi announced that the University would move to Code Yellow due to a spike in COVID-19 cases on campus. Nationwide, COVID-19 infections continue to climb, as well.

When the Ancient Eight canceled fall competition in July, it became the first athletic conference to do so, but left open the possibility that football and other fall sports could resume in the spring. David Archer ’05, the head coach of the Cornell football team, told The Sun last month that he thought it was very unlikely that there would be a season. The Ivy League was also the first in the country to cancel sports last spring.

The Ivy League’s plan prior to the start of the school year canceled all competition through the end of the fall semester. That meant winter sports, like hockey and basketball, might be able to resume around the start of 2021. But the decision reported Thursday means winter sports won’t take place during the 2020-21 season, and spring sports won’t start for at least three months.

Cornell’s women’s and men’s ice hockey had recently been dubbed the NCAA’s No. 2 and No. 6 teams, respectively, in preseason polling. At the early conclusion of last year’s seasons, both were rated No. 1. 

The ECAC on Friday said it remains dedicated to conducting a winter season this year with whatever member institutions are able to play. Ivy League schools make up half of the ECAC’s 12 teams. It is not yet clear exactly what the league’s plan for resuming play will be going forward.

Precedent does exist for leagues rescinding such decisions — earlier this fall, the PAC 12 and Big Ten doubled back on their plans to cancel fall sports and commenced play partway through the season. The Ivy League, however, is less likely to make such a change, given its steadfastness in its decision making this past fall and the fact that sports do not produce as much revenue in the Ancient Eight as they do at Power Five conference schools.

Spring athletes last year were granted an extra year of varsity athletics eligibility by the NCAA. It is unknown whether any such concessions will be made for the Ivy League athletes who aren’t playing this school year.