Courtesy of Yale Athletics

Early Thursday afternoon, the Ivy League announced that it would not hold a spring sports season this year.

In an email sent to Yale’s spring sport student-athletes just after 1 p.m., Director of Athletics Vicky Chun included a memo from the Ivy League that announced the cancellation of Ancient Eight spring sports competition for the 2021 season. Despite the cancellation of all league competition, the Council of Presidents noted that local spring nonconference competition could happen should the state of the pandemic “substantially improve.”

The Ivy League office published an official press release a few minutes after Chun’s email to the Bulldogs’ spring athletes.

“As campus and community leaders, we believe that our public health responsibilities and educational principles preclude us from sponsoring Ivy League athletics competition this spring,” the eight Ivy League presidents said in a joint statement.

The announcement also stated that the conference would continue using the return-to-play athletic activity phases that it has employed since the beginning of the 2020-21 academic year. Earlier this month, the Ivy League modified its phasing guidelines to provide a path to competition, according to Matt Panto, the associate executive director of strategic communications and external relations within the Ivy League.

The conference announced Thursday that the phased training guidelines will remain in place despite the cancellation of Ivy League competition — Phase IV could potentially allow individual schools to participate in local nonconference competition.

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“These competitions will be subject to league stipulations and must remain consistent with institutional policies for comparable co-curricular activities, including applicable travel restrictions for on-campus students and university visitor policies,” the announcement detailed.

The long-awaited decision comes a week after an exception to the Ivy League’s long-standing eligibility policies was announced. The one-time waiver allows graduating seniors the chance to compete as graduate students at their current schools next year, provided that they are accepted into a degree-granting graduate program. The announcement garnered mixed reactions from student-athletes, many of whom seemed puzzled by its timing, which fell after application deadlines to more than 50 of Yale’s graduate programs passed in December and January. 

In January, the Ivy League released a “status update” about the possibility of spring sport competition to athletes and coaches. The memo was the Ivy League’s first official guidance on spring athletics since November and warned that the return of competition would require “significant changes” in the state of the pandemic, adding that athletes might have to make enrollment decisions without any definitive clarity on the status of spring competition. Yale’s deadline to request a leave of absence for the spring term passed on Monday, Feb. 15.

“The league was headed this direction for months,” Yale baseball alumnus Benny Wanger ’19, who had previously vocalized his frustration with the Ivy League’s decision-making process, said. “It’s sad, but not surprising to anyone. This is a result of poor leadership, and while every other DI conference moves towards the start of their spring season too. Since this was clearly a preset decision (COVID rates are dropping dramatically), presidents should’ve made this announcement back in December to help their student-athletes make future plans. If I were a current Ivy student-athlete I would feel totally betrayed by the administration. This decision is going to impact the Ivy League negatively for years to come.”

When asked for a timeline of when the decision was made and what prompted the Council of Presidents to decide to cancel the spring sports season, Panto said that the Ivy League does not comment on Council discussions and referred the News to the joint statement that was released with the announcement. According to The New York Times, the Ivy League is the only NCAA Division I conference that has not released a baseball schedule.

Last November, the Ivy League announced its decision to postpone spring sports through at least the end of February. Last year’s spring season was abruptly cut short due to the onset of the coronavirus. 

“Today is certainly a sad day as nothing gives my teammates and I more pride than representing Yale in the Ivy League, and competing for opportunities to win championships,” said catcher and captain of the baseball team Cal Christofori ’21, who wrote a widely shared open letter expressing his desire to compete less than a week after the January status update. “I know this is incredibly difficult for all Ivy League spring student-athletes, who work tirelessly with hopes of competing. My teammates and I will continue to support one another, have each other’s backs and continue to represent Yale Athletics as best as we can. I am confident there are better days ahead for our team, for Yale and for the Ivy League.”

The Ivy League announced the cancellation of its winter season on Nov. 12.

Eugenio Garza Garcia | eugenio.garzagarcia@yale.edu