Courtesy of Yale Athletics

The Ivy League has canceled all winter sports competitions and delayed the start of the spring sports season until at least the end of February, the conference’s Council of Presidents announced Thursday evening.

The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases increase across the country and in Connecticut, following a fall season in which no Ivy League teams competed. The conference’s initial announcement about the cancellation of fall competition came out in early July and left open the possibility that fall sports could occur in the spring. But Thursday’s announcement also clarified that fall sports will not be played this spring.

A final decision on spring sports will come in January, Director of Athletics Vicky Chun told winter and spring sport student-athletes in separate Thursday Zoom calls.

“Throughout the last nine months, we have asked our campus communities to make extraordinary adjustments in order to do our part in combating the global pandemic and to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our students, faculty members, staff and the communities in which they live and work,” the Council of Presidents wrote in a joint statement. “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 announcement added that the council “will continue to closely monitor and evaluate the public health climate and consider changes to policies when warranted in order to return to more normal campus operations, including potential spring intercollegiate athletics competition.”
The decision to cancel winter sports comes on the heels of a Nov. 6 email announcement by University Provost Scott Strobel and Yale’s COVID-19 Coordinator Stephanie Spangler that said varsity athletics would not be moving past Phase I of the Ivy League’s three-stage approach to resuming athletic training for the remainder of the fall semester. The email, sent to all students and faculty, announced a series of updated University guidelines as Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced new statewide rules. Yale then shifted to an orange COVID-19 alert level last Friday evening.

Yale’s winter sport athletes, like women’s basketball captain and guard Ellen Margaret Andrews ’21 above, will not compete this school year. (Photo: muscosportsphotos.com)

“First and foremost we feel for all of the winter student-athletes who had their seasons canceled — we know how devastating it is and fully support them in such a difficult time,” Yale baseball captain Cal Christofori ’21 told the News. “As spring student-athletes, we view the delay of our season as a positive because it allows more time to get the virus in check across the country and ensure health and safety for us to be able to compete. Given how much our teams and sports mean to every student-athlete at the University, we continue to hold out hope we will get the opportunity to play this spring.”

On July 8, the Ivy League announced that athletic competitions had been canceled for the fall term because of the COVID-19 pandemic. An article in The Athletic called the original decision to cancel athletic activities a “big domino” for the college football world, but this was ultimately not the case, as all Power Five FBS conferences have played games this semester. As speculation grew this afternoon about Thursday’s Ivy League announcement, Kendall Rogers, a co-managing editor for D1Baseball, predicted that the conference’s decision would have “zero bearing on other leagues anyway.

Other Yale student-athletes reacted to the league’s announcement on social media.

“Glad the Ivy League could finally come to a decision on the season and appreciate them keeping our health and safety in mind,” Yale men’s basketball forward Paul Atkinson ’21, who was last season’s co-Ivy League Player of the Year, wrote in a tweet. “However the buildup to the announcement was handled poorly by both the league and our athletic department due to their terrible communication with student-athletes.”

Atkinson, who declined an interview request with the News, previously announced his intention to pursue opportunities as a graduate transfer after he finishes his Yale degree this spring.

Regardless of whether or not they enroll, winter and fall sport student-athletes will not lose a season of NCAA eligibility, Thursday’s announcement said.

“The decision to cancel all winter sports was heartbreaking albeit somewhat expected with the current state of the pandemic,” Yale fencer Allan Ding ’24 said. “Once again, hospitals are over capacity and frontline workers are facing near-insurmountable odds. We must do everything to support them against COVID-19. Nonetheless, I cannot imagine the disappointment that all our seniors and captains feel as they were preparing to lead our teams towards more exhilarating victories and historic wins. I am hopeful that conditions will improve in the spring and that the Ivy League and NCAA will allow us [to] reclaim our season in the future.”

Intercollegiate athletics competition for spring sports, like men’s lacrosse above, is postponed through at least the end of February. (Photo: Courtesy of Yale Athletics)

According to an FAQ posted for Yale student-athletes, first-year students, who will not have access to campus in the spring, will be permitted to use “necessary athletic facilities” if competition is permitted in the spring semester.

The NCAA Division III New England Small College Athletic Conference, or NESAC, canceled all of its winter competitions on Oct. 8. In Division I, however, other conferences are planning to pursue at least a college basketball season, with the men’s and women’s seasons beginning on Nov. 25.

“I’m really sad that I won’t be able to compete in the sport that I love so much, but I understand that it is tough times for all of us and we just have to adapt and move on,” Yale men’s basketball forward Yussif Basa-Ama ’24 said after hearing the news.

The Ancient Eight’s phased approach to training can continue in the spring under the same guidelines used during this past fall, the announcement added.

Jordan Davidsen contributed reporting.

Eugenio Garza García | eugenio.garzagarcia@yale.edu

Update, November 12, 10:04 p.m.: This article has been updated to include reactions from Yale student-athletes that came after the Ivy League released its announcement at 6:30 p.m.