A little more than 24 hours after their controversial decision to cancel the league’s postseason tournament was chastised by players, media, Ancient Eight enthusiasts and general sports fans, the Ivy League appears to have been ahead of the curve, as the NBA abruptly canceled the remainder of the season on Wednesday night.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Ivy League canceled the upcoming men’s and women’s basketball tournaments three days before they were to begin.
With an increasing public health crisis due to the COVID-19 virus, Executive Director Robin Harris informed the New York Times that the conference leaders looked at a number or options in order to keep people safe and ultimately settled on the most extreme solution.
Harris, the Ivy League’s executive director, said in an interview that the presidents of the conference’s members had decided to cancel the basketball tournaments after weighing an array of alternatives. Those options, she said, included limiting capacity to allow for “social distancing,” as Stanford has done at its sporting events; playing in front of only essential personnel and a limited number of team guests; and playing without spectators. The presidents also considered playing without any restrictions.
At the time of the Tuesday’s statement, the conference also announced the implementation of highly restrictive, in-venue spectator limitations for all other upcoming campus athletics events. The league was also terminating all out-of-season practices and competitions.
By late Wednesday afternoon, the Ivy League presidents went even further, releasing a statement cancelling all spring athletics practice and competition through the remainder of the academic year. The league also mentioned that “Individual institutions will decide whether or not winter teams and student-athletes who have qualified for postseason play will participate.”
As of Wednesday evening, Harvard University announced it “will not participate in any team or individual NCAA or other postseason competition.” including its men’s hockey team which was scheduled to take on RPI in an ECAC quarterfinal this weekend. Yale University, which was set to visit Cornell on Friday night, also withdrew its men’s hockey team from the ECAC quarterfinals.
At this time, Cornell men’s hockey, Princeton men’s hockey and and Princeton women’s hockey remain in the ECAC and NCAA Tournaments, respectively. In addition, Yale men’s basketball and Princeton women’s basketball, the regular season champions who were awarded the league’s automatic bids with the tournament canceled, are planning on attending next week’s NCAA Tournament.
Emails to Cornell, Princeton and Yale Athletics inquiring about any changes in their teams’ postseason status have not been returned by the time this article was published.
As the sports world continued to heap derision on the perceived overreactions of the conference, opinions began to change when the NCAA announced that it would play its upcoming tournament games would be played without fans.
Just after 9:30 pm, just a few minutes after President Donald Trump addressed the nation about the coronavirus pandemic from the Oval Office, ESPN reported that the NBA has suspended its season “until further notice” after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz player tested positive for the virus.
The Utah Jazz were visiting the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night and were moments away from tip-off when both teams were led back to their respective dressings rooms. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the teams remained in quarantine at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Jeff Goodman reported on Twitter Wednesday night that former Yale standout and 2019 Ivy League Player of the Year Miye Oni was with the Jazz last week and is waiting to be tested to make sure he doesn’t have the virus, as is fellow Jazz G-Leaguer Jarrell Brantley.
The possibility of individuals playing or attending the Ivy League Tournament contracting the virus and passing along to others on the court and in their communities was a major concern of the Ivy League leadership when debating the options for the conference tournament.
As Harris told the Harvard Crimson,
“That is exactly who devoted hours to discussing and weighing all the options and ultimately made the very difficult decision to cancel the tournament in the interest of the health and safety of our fans, our students, and the general community at large, given the outbreak that’s occurring,”
With events drastically changing by the moment, it appears that the choice of Ivy League officials to put public and player safety over festivities and profits has led the way for the NBA to follow suit. Over the next several hours and days, their actions should serve as a template for other leagues to emulate.