Courtesy of Yale Athletics

On Oct. 6, Yale announced its plans and academic calendar for the spring semester of the 2020-21 school year — but didn’t mention athletic programs.

The announcement and calendar included some new information and dates for Yale students, while keeping consistent with some of Yale’s aforementioned initiatives. Sophomores, juniors and seniors are still permitted on campus and the semester is slated to begin on Feb. 1, with no spring recess.

While the email from Dean Marvin Chun to the Yale student body did not give an official statement about how sports will be affected, coaches weighed in on the new calendar’s implications for Yale Athletics in the spring.

“I’m always an optimist, but I have to temper with the realism of what I see daily. Based on how we shut down last March, based on when they announced our shutdown this fall, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the spring,” Paul Harkins, men’s cross country coach, told the News. “I would love to see a spring season, an outdoor track season, but I am not 100 percent confident it’s going to happen without massive advances in vaccine development and things like that, so I don’t know how realistic it is to really plan for that.”

And it seems like the Ivy League does not either. The Ivy League has made no mention of specific guidelines for returning to athletic play or practice for the spring semester. The Ivy League’s initial decision to cancel sports for the fall semester is still in place until Jan. 1, 2021. When that expires, the Ivy League university presidents will reconvene and make an official decision on how athletics will function in spring 2021.

The spring calendar looked all too familiar for student-athletes who are currently enrolled. No breaks, no inclusion of first years on campus and no new positive information about how athletes would be affected. Since there have been no announced changes to how sports are going to operate, student-athletes and coaches alike are concerned that the spring semester will treat athletic competition just as they did in the first semester: minimal workout times, regulated group meetings and unpredictable switches between phases.

Despite these uncertainties, Yale men’s hockey coach Keith Allain ’80 saw it as something to be optimistic about. 

“I think it’s good that they’ve got a plan in place, and they announced it,” Allain said. “The fact that, you know, they’ve got plans in place to bring people on campus in the spring, that’s a good thing.”

This positive response came only a day before six men’s hockey players tested positive for COVID-19. This relegated Yale Athletics back to Phase 0 until at least Oct. 21, with no in-person workouts or meetings — just one week after having reached Phase II of the Ivy League’s phased approach. So, while players may be brought on campus in the spring, it remains unclear how this recent outbreak will affect Yale Athletics for the rest of this year.

Some coaches, like Yale’s fencing coach Haibin Wang, seemed to be disappointed by the changes in the University’s announced spring-term calendar.

“That was absolutely regrettable news for our team expectations,” Wang said. “We are working hard during the fall semester — we were looking forward to having Ivy championships and [NCAA] championships in spring.”

Yet, optimistic spirit remains. Harkins said his team is doing their best in these trying times.

“We will do our best to keep optimistic, remain positive and just focus on the process to be ready when it does return, but I don’t know if it’s going to be this spring. I hope for this spring, but we’ll let the experts decide that.”

The Ivy League has yet to announce a date to reassess athletic competition for the spring term.

Eugenio Garza García, Alessa Kim-Panero and Amelia Lower contributed reporting. 

Jordan Davidsen | jordan.davidsen@yale.edu

Clarification, Oct. 15: This article has been updated to better reflect the context around Wang’s quote. Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article portrayed his response as a reaction to news of Yale’s return to Phase 0. In fact, he was reacting to news about the spring academic calendar.