The Ivy League on Thursday canceled winter sports and postponed its spring sports, citing spiking coronavirus cases across the United States and student safety.
“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 league’s council wrote in the announcement on Thursday.
The unanimous decision affects winter sports like basketball, ice hockey, squash, swimming and diving, wrestling and indoor track and field. Additionally, teams in spring sports like lacrosse, baseball and softball will have their seasons delayed through at least the end of February.
Athletes will not lose a year of eligibility whether or not they enroll, the league said, and enrolled student athletes are still permitted to practice, “provided they are structured in accordance with each institution’s procedures and applicable state and local regulations.”
The announcement comes as coronavirus cases skyrocket across the United States: Wednesday saw the highest number of new coronavirus infections on one day to date — surpassing 140,000, according to a New York Times database — as hospitals reach capacity, causing some states to reinstitute more stringent social distancing protocols, curfews and mask mandates. More than 65,000 coronavirus patients were being treated in hospitals on Wednesday, according to the Covid Tracking Project, which is the largest number at any point in the pandemic.
Colleges and universities have been linked to at least 252,000 coronavirus cases and at least 80 deaths from over 1,600 schools since the pandemic began, a New York Times survey found.
The Ivy League had put fall sports on hold until January, and on Thursday the conference said it would not stage those seasons during the spring.
Other conferences that had made similar decisions to suspend fall sports have reversed course, taking precautions to keep football afloat through the fall but facing postponements and cancellations because of virus infections. The Southeastern Conference, home to football powerhouses like Alabama and Texas A&M, postponed four games scheduled for this weekend as players and personnel across programs tested positive for the virus.
“It’s a difficult circumstance, no way to paint it otherwise,” the SEC commissioner, Greg Sankey, said in a teleconference with reporters on Wednesday. “But we knew that challenges would emerge for college sports. They’d emerge in the Southeastern Conference, just as challenges are present across the entire society in our country.”
Sankey said other sports — including cross-country, soccer, volleyball and swimming and diving — have taken off without as much disruption; he added that basketball was set to tip off in the next couple weeks.
The Big Ten Conference, which kicked off at the end of October, declared a “no contest” rule for games canceled over virus concerns to adhere to a tight, nine-week schedule. It has already had to cancel two games for Wisconsin. Maryland, part of the Big Ten, stopped all football activities on Wednesday because of mounting virus cases.