Coronavirus: Ivy League cancels fall sports schedule

Coronavirus: Ivy League cancels fall sports schedule
For the first time since 1944, "The Game" between Harvard and Yale will not be played this fall. (Al Bello /Allsport)

PRINCETON, N.J. — Harvard vs. Yale is not happening this fall.

The Ivy League became the first Division I sports conference to rule out playing all sports this fall due to the coronavirus, league officials said in a statement Wednesday.

That means sports like football, men’s basketball, cross country and sailing will be in limbo at least until January, The New York Times reported. Practices will be allowed during the fall, but the pandemic will have to subside before schools oppose one another next year, the newspaper reported.

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The move could have implications for other larger conferences around the nation.

“With the safety and well-being of students as their highest priority, Ivy League institutions are implementing campus-wide policies including restrictions on student and staff travel, requirements for social distancing, limits on group gatherings, and regulations for visitors to campus,” league presidents said in a statement. “As athletics is expected to operate consistent with campus policies, it will not be possible for Ivy League teams to participate in intercollegiate athletics competition prior to the end of the fall semester.”

In football, for example, Harvard and Yale began their football series in 1875. Wednesday’s announcement will mark the first time the two ancient rivals have not met to play “The Game” since 1943 and 1944 due to World War II.

The cancellation of the fall sports follows the Ivy League’s decision March 10 to scrap its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments because of the pandemic, ESPN reported.

The campus policies make it impractical for competition to occur, at least through the end of the fall semester,” Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris told ESPN. “That’s why today we’re announcing. Eight campuses have announced their policies for the fall over the past two weeks. When we realized and the presidents realized based on these campus policies that we couldn’t have competition we wanted to make sure the student-athletes were aware of the outcome.

“It’s certainly the right decision for the Ivy League, but it’s difficult.”

The Patriot League, which includes small colleges in the Northeast, announced last month that its fall sports schedule would play league games from late September through Thanksgiving, but decreed that travel by airplanes would be prohibited, the Times reported.

Fordham announced Tuesday that it had canceled its first three games, and last week, Lafayette canceled its season-opening game at Navy, the newspaper reported.

Whether the Power 5 conferences will follow suit may not be determined until later this month.

“There are important decisions to be made in the coming weeks and by late July there should be more clarity about the fall season,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement to ESPN on Monday. “In the meantime, our athletics programs will continue to effectively manage the health and safety of our student-athletes as they continue voluntary activities on their respective campuses.”

“We certainly are watching closely as Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NBA are doing things, and likewise we’ve certainly got to keep a close eye on what other colleagues in other conferences are doing,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN. “But their circumstances are a little different than ours. Their locations are in places that are different than ours. We’re certainly going to pay attention to it, but I don’t know that it’s determinative, necessarily.”