Ivy League update conditions possibility of spring athletic competition on ‘significant changes’ in state of pandemic
The update emphasized that no final decision on spring competition has been made, leaving enrollment plans in limbo for some student-athletes.
With the beginning of Yale’s spring semester two and a half weeks away, the Ivy League released a “status update,” obtained by the News, to spring-sport students and coaches Thursday but said a final decision on spring competition had not been made.
Thursday’s update, which marked the Ivy League’s first official guidance on spring athletics since November, acknowledged that many spring athletes may need to make enrollment decisions and plan for the spring without any final answer on the status of competition. In November, the league announced the cancellation of winter sports and the delay of all spring competition through at least February. Yale students at large have 15 days until after the term starts on Feb. 1 to petition for a leave of absence, and several athletes across different spring sports told the News this week they planned to hinge their enrollment decision on the Ancient Eight’s verdict on spring competition.
“Students should understand that there must be significant changes in the state of the pandemic before competition becomes feasible and that a number of factors are outside institutional control,” one section of the Ivy League’s update read. “Should competition become feasible this term it will, at best, result in an abbreviated, and likely significantly curtailed, competition schedule. Delaying a final determination allows the possibility of conditions sufficiently improving.”
Director of Athletics Vicky Chun passed along the conference’s memo to spring athletes in an email obtained by the News, reiterating that a final decision regarding competition has not been made.
“Note, in the attached Ivy League document there needs to be significant change in the state of the pandemic before competition of any sort will be permitted,” Chun wrote. She added she plans to share more information from the Ivy League with Yale coaches and athletes as it becomes available. Additionally, she provided a Google Form to collect questions stemming from the update.
When the decision to cancel winter sports was announced to athletes via Zoom, Chun told spring-sport athletes they could expect a final decision in January. But a timeline for a final decision remains unclear. The original November press release from the conference stipulated that the Council of Presidents would “closely monitor and evaluate the public health climate” to inform policies. The Ivy League did not respond to a request for comment about a timeline for a final decision.
In an email to Harvard’s student-athletes obtained by the News, the Crimson’s Director of Athletics Erin McDermott stated that, “it is more likely that a decision about any possible spring competition will be made some time in February, to give time for potential improvements in conditions.”
“Even though the Ivy League hasn’t announced anything regarding the continuation of spring sports, I think people already know the answer to the question,” women’s golfer Kaitlyn Lee ’24 said this week before receiving Thursday’s update. “Not everyone is eligible for the COVID vaccine yet, and with cases still spiking, it’s hard to organize safe competition and travel schedules. While I’m upset that we will likely not have a spring season, I understand that everyone’s health and safety is the number one priority. I’m optimistic that sports will resume again in the fall, so I’m excited to get things going again once it is safe to do so.”
Earlier this month, Yale baseball alumnus and current Miami Hurricane player Benny Wanger ’19 voiced frustration with the Ivy League’s decision-making process on Twitter: “Hey @IvyLeague — when are you going to let your Spring athletes know if there’s going to be a season? Or do you plan on leaving your athletes out to dry again this year?” the first of a series of tweets read. He went on to add that he has spoken with Ivy spring athletes who plan on withdrawing if there is no competition this spring but remain “in limbo” with no final decision.
Wanger graduated from Yale in 2019 with a season of eligibility remaining and played at USC last spring as a graduate transfer, leading the Trojans with a .410 batting average. When the coronavirus abruptly canceled his 2020 spring season, the two-way player found himself with his season of eligibility still unused, leading him to Miami for another year as a graduate transfer.
In an interview with the News, Wanger said that a number of athletes had reached out to him asking about the graduate transfer process. In those conversations, he said he heard a lot of frustration among players about the lack of definitive information being passed on to athletes.
“For me at least, there is a really fine line that the Ivy League has to walk,” Wanger said. “Between looking out for students and student-athlete safety and just plain old negligence. It’s the worst as an athlete to look around and you’re in your season and other people are playing and you’re not — like the winter athletes felt that this winter and are feeling it now. It just feels like you’ve been let down by the administration, and it’s their job because you haven’t really seen the Ivy League make significant strides for having a season this year.”
Thursday’s update from the league also stated that “the League is modifying some aspects of the existing athletics phases for the winter/spring term to allow for additional sport-specific activity in earlier phases.” At Harvard, meanwhile, McDermott wrote that the spring phasing system “is intended as a path to competition, whenever it is deemed safe to resume.”
The update specified that each Ivy League institution will govern its own movement through the phases in accordance with campus policies, as was the case during the fall semester.
“I think there is a lot of frustration on both sides,” women’s golfer Ami Gianchandani ’23 said before the status update was released. “I know the Ivy office is doing the best they can to let us have some kind of spring season, but understand the hesitation on their part in waiting as long as they can to give it every hope they can. I am almost sure that if they had planned to make the announcement earlier, it would have been very similar to the fall season’s [announcement].”
Yale will begin its spring semester on Monday, Feb. 1.
Eugenio Garza García | firstname.lastname@example.org