Time is ticking on the Ivy League’s decision to potentially move forward with a rescheduled spring athletics season — athletes and fans alike are calling for at least a few weeks of Ivy League action. Taking into account the risks that come with athletic events, I believe that it would ultimately be in the best interest of the Cornell community to cancel the season.
In a year full of sacrifices, disappointment for the sake of public safety has become the norm. The traditional college experience has fallen victim to the pandemic’s wrath, and sporting events should be no different.
Coming into the year as a first year, I was excited to participate in tailgating events, attend homecoming games and experience Big Red athletics firsthand. Throughout high school I covered varsity football games, and the thought of taking pictures on the sidelines of Schoellkopf Field is what drew me to The Sun.
After receiving the news that all fall sports were canceled, I was frustrated that my long-anticipated outlet for school spirit was stripped from me and replaced with virtual game nights.
I came into the second semester praying for the chance to finally see the Ivy League in action, but a change of heart has come over me recently. Seeing the experience of other colleges resuming athletic events has convinced me that Cornell should maintain its pause on sports a little longer.
The transmission of COVID-19 through sporting events is an unnecessary risk. Whether it be on the field or in the stands, sports promote students breaching social distancing guidelines for the sake of competition and camaraderie. Contact sports will always have the potential to spread diseases amongst athletes and coaching staff because of the close proximity. Even televised rivalries or championships would likely draw in crowds of students to form watch parties, potentially initiating a super spreader event. Modeling from Washington State University confirmed that even with socially distanced sporting events, student bodies would at least see a 25 percent rise in COVID-19 cases.
The spread of COVID-19 through college sports has already been closely documented, with the most recent reports confirming at least 6,000 cases in student-athletes and athletic faculty across 78 of the 130 NCAA schools. Cornell itself traced back its first major COVID outbreak to the athletic community in early September when 36 of 39 positive cases were determined to be student-athletes.
Several schools have already seen spikes in COVID cases across the student population after large sporting events. Ohio State University, for example, competed in the College Football Playoffs National Championship and immediately afterward saw new daily positive cases spike from 12 to 52 in only seven days.
Cornell does not have the leeway to allow for such an outbreak to occur because of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D-N.Y.) college closure threshold of 100 on-campus cases, which is why spring sports must unfortunately be canceled until the pandemic is under control. Most experts believe that above 70 percent of the population must be vaccinated or immune to the spread of COVID-19 before the trend line of infections significantly decreases, so only time will tell how long the Ivy League must wait before safely returning to normal operations.
Not all hope is lost for athletes hoping to live out their final seasons, though. With the recent news of Ivy League graduate students being eligible to participate in next year’s events, graduating student athletes can still look forward to the senior season they couldn’t have this year. The fans on campus meanwhile can continue to enjoy socially distanced campus life.
To continue to stay healthy, we must accept the reality that social events such as sports have to be given up for the benefit of the community, or else we run the risk of losing our access to life on campus altogether.