Jilly Mehlman

Ivy League schools will not participate in athletic competition during the fall term, the conference announced Wednesday afternoon.

The decision, which was made by the Ivy League Council of Presidents, follows a week in which several Ancient Eight schools released their plans for the fall. With strict requirements for social distancing and limits on student travel, large gatherings and visitors to campus, presidents concluded participating in intercollegiate athletics competition would not be possible in the fall semester.

Regardless of whether or not they enroll, fall sport student-athletes will not burn a season of Ivy League or NCAA eligibility, the announcement stated. The League will issue a decision on whether or not fall competition can occur in spring 2021 at a later date, it added.

“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,” the eight presidents said in a joint statement. 

The announcement said practices and other “athletic training opportunities” for enrolled student-athletes would be allowed as long as they comply with policies set out by each of the Ancient Eight’s individual member institutions. 

Yale also released a Cancellation of Fall Semester Athletics Competition FAQ on Wednesday. The release specified that more guidance from the Ivy League on practice activities will emerge on July 14, but confirmed that teams will be allowed to train this fall in accordance with the Ancient Eight announcement, NCAA policies and state and University guidelines. The FAQ also clarified that NCAA rules do not allow student-athletes taking a leave of absence to participate in required athletic activities, including those that occur virtually.

“While difficult to imagine Fall at Yale without sports, it is unimaginable to ask our student-athletes to choose between their health and athletic competition,” Director of Athletics Vicky Chun said. “Yale Athletics will work tirelessly to support the needs of our student-athletes in light of this decision. We look forward to the day when we can resume competition on behalf of our Bulldog Nation.”

In addition to addressing immediate implications for the fall, questions surrounding eligibility and details on transfer policies, Yale also stated that enrolled in-season first-year student-athletes will receive access to “necessary athletic facilities” if athletic competition occurs in the spring. However, the Class of 2024 will not have access to other parts of campus. Currently, the University only plans to allow sophomores, juniors and seniors on campus in the spring semester to keep the on-campus population at 60 percent capacity.

The Wednesday evening announcement concluded a week of anticipation across the Ancient Eight. On the morning of July 1, about twenty minutes before University President Peter Salovey publicized Yale’s plans for the fall in a community-wide email, the Ivy League released a statement regarding its intent to announce a final decision on fall term athletics Wednesday. 

Striker Ellery Winkler ’23 and her women’s soccer teammates will not take to the pitch for games this fall. (Photo: muscosportsphotos.com)

Since then, college sports fans and reporters beyond the Ivy League have also flagged the decision as a potential precursor to future moves by power football conferences. “Ivy League’s impending decision could be a ‘big domino’ for college football,” The Athletic wrote in a Monday headline.

On March 10, the Ivy League was the first to cancel its men’s and women’s basketball tournament, Ivy Madness. Within two days, high-major conferences and the NCAA itself had followed suit, as the sports world and much of society came to a sudden halt. 

With Wednesday’s announcement, the Ivy League becomes the first NCAA Division I conference to scrap fall athletics, though other schools and at least one Division III conference have also announced major changes in recent weeks. Division II Morehouse College decided to cancel its fall sports in late June, and four Division III schools in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) — Amherst, Bowdoin, Wesleyan and Williams — have also decided they will not be participating in fall sport competition. Additionally, Amherst and Bowdoin, which was one of the first schools to announce no fall semester athletics alongside its June 22 decision to bring back a limited number of students this fall, ruled out winter team competition during the fall semester.

The NESCAC as a whole has not yet issued a conference-wide decision, while the Division III Centennial Conference, comprised of 11 schools in Pennsylvania and Maryland, announced a suspension of fall sports on Tuesday. MIT decided to cancel all fall varsity sports on Tuesday as well.

Amidst the uncertainty of a fall collegiate sports season, the NCAA allowed teams to host voluntary activities beginning on June 1st. Yet, outbreaks have affected some restricted team gatherings. According to USA Today, more than 40 schools have already publicly disclosed COVID-19 cases among team personnel. 

At Yale, the decision could have implications for students considering taking a leave of absence this fall. In a survey administered to Yale College students from the classes of 2021 through 2023 published by the News last month, 14.47 percent of respondents cited athletic experiences as a factor that would contribute to their decision about fall 2020 enrollment.

The League will decide later on whether the remainder of the winter season and spring season can occur at a later date, the announcement said.

Update, July 8, 7:11 p.m.: This article has been updated to include a quote from Director of Athletics Vicky Chun, in addition to details from the student-athlete FAQ released by Yale Athletics at 6:30 p.m.

Eugenio Garza Garcia | eugenio.garzagarcia@yale.edu

William McCormack | william.mccormack@yale.edu