Courtesy of Harold Shapiro, Yale School of Management

On Thursday, Yale alumnus Joe Tsai ’86 LAW ’90 confirmed in a tweet that his proposal to provide safe competition within a bubble for both men’s and women’s Ivy League lacrosse teams was rejected in a group decision by the Ivy League.

Inside Lacrosse first reported the rejected proposal on Thursday morning, and Tsai effectively confirmed the report with his tweet in the afternoon. Tsai — co-founder of Alibaba and one of the largest investors in the professional Premier Lacrosse League — was to fund the bubble with operations support from the PLL and its CEO, Mike Rabil.

“We provided the Ivy League commissioner with proprietary IP and an operations plan for building a bubble for 300 people,” Rabil told the News. “I brought on PLL’s general counsel, head doctor and operations manager to a call where we provided answers to their questions and discussed small improvements. … We implored them to move forward with a bubble for men’s and women’s Ivy League lacrosse and we would be an ongoing resource for them.”

The proposed bubble would have lasted three weeks, and included pre-, during and post-bubble protocols to ensure what the PLL thought would be a safe experience for all those involved.

Despite the operational support from the PLL — which successfully hosted its own bubble this past summer — and funding from Tsai, the Ancient Eight will not move forward with the proposed plans.

While the decision by the league as a whole “yielded to the lowest common denominator,” Yale “did step up,” Tsai wrote in his tweet, mentioning that the Yale administration “was constructive in exploring the possibilities with me.” The Ivy League did not respond to a request for more details on Thursday.

Star faceoff specialist TD Ierlan ’21, who decided to transfer to the University of Denver to play one more collegiate lacrosse season, alluded to the same conclusion earlier this month.

“We know President [Salovey] really pushed for us to play so we’d like to thank him,” Ierlan said. “It’s a shame that the other presidents wouldn’t get on board.”

Yale Athletics declined to comment, and University spokesperson Karen Peart told the News on behalf of President Salovey that “All conversations of the Ivy League Council of Presidents are confidential.” 

While it remains unclear why the proposal was ultimately rejected, Inside Lacrosse reported that several arguments against the bubble included that it would detract from student-athletes’ on-campus experiences and that it would signify preferential treatment for lacrosse athletes. The legitimacy and weight of those concerns remains unclear, but according to Inside Lacrosse, Tsai refuted the latter by offering to put up additional funds for different sports if other alumni were unwilling.

Tsai, who received the George H.W. Bush ’48 Lifetime of Leadership Award from Yale, has donated significant amounts of money to Yale in recent years. He donated 30 million dollars to Yale Law School’s China Center — now the Paul Tsai China Center — in 2016, and another large donation followed in 2017 for the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale. When the Yale men’s basketball team played in Shanghai to start the 2018-19 season against California in the Pac-12 China Game, which is sponsored by Alibaba, Tsai joined them during their stay.

Men’s lacrosse head coach Andy Shay recently announced that the team would not play this season because not enough players are enrolled this spring, as the Ivy League had yet to provide any clarity regarding the fate of spring competition.

Ierlan told the News earlier that he had hoped to man the X in a Yale jersey once more, but the Ancient Eight’s lack of communication and his dim hope that he would be able to don the Blue and White this spring resulted in his transfer.

“All in all I wish the Ivy League kept us more in the loop,” Ierlan said. “It will be really tough to watch other conferences play this year. 

Players on the women’s lacrosse team were not immediately available for comment.

Tsai played varsity men’s lacrosse at Yale between 1982 and 1986.

Akshar Agarwal | akshar.agarwal@yale.edu