The First Domino to Fall: Ivy League Cancels Fall Sports

The Ivy League announced that all fall sports would be cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This makes it the first Division I conference to decide against holding athletic competitions this fall. Harvard, Princeton, and other Ivy League institutions have already stated that many students will not attend in-person classes, so it is not surprising to see intercollegiate athletics suspended. The Ivy League also clarified that there is no chance that athletics would return prior to 2021. 

The League’s Council of Presidents said the following in a statement published on the Ivy League website: “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, consistent with the policies that each of our schools is adopting as part of its reopening plans this fall.”

This is not the first time that the Ivy League has been the first metaphorical domino to fall in a series of cancellations related to COVID-19; the Ivy League was the first conference to withdraw its teams from the Division I NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament back in March. Other institutions from Power Five conferences slowly and begrudgingly followed suit, up until the NCAA cancelled all championships on March 12, followed by virtually every sports league on the planet.

It seems this domino effect has begun once again. Upon the Ivy League making its announcement, North Carolina has paused its football workouts, Ohio State has done the same with all voluntary workouts, along with Kansas and numerous other Division I institutions following, and the Division III Centennial Conference has also suspended all fall sports.

 While there are tentative plans to play college football – notoriously the financial staple of NCAA athletic programs along with basketball – in the spring, those plans are nothing but tentative. And while it is such a worn statement, nothing is certain in a pandemic. The hope of better treatments, reduced cases, and even a vaccine, are critical to the return of college sports, but the dreaded fear of a second wave of cases has many skeptical as to whether the spring would be any more feasible than the current conditions.

On top of the obvious health risks preventing the return of sports, there are massive economic obstacles. The costs of testing, implementation of social distancing protocols, and preparedness for an inevitable outbreak have set institutions back millions of dollars. While many have very flattering nine and ten-figure endowments, these types of costs could usually be paid for by the profits of football and basketball programs, which now are either nonexistent or in peril.

For Bates, the future of athletics is unclear to say the least. The NESCAC is yet to make a conference-wide decision regarding sports, but Bates has acknowledged that it will be impossible to hold athletics in any sort of normal capacity. Bates clarified that certain sports may be able to have limited forms of competition and that teams can hold in-person gatherings respecting the guidelines and regulations set out by the institution. While one can never say never, the situation is certainly not positive for Bates or any of its NESCAC peer schools.