A quiet Saturday on the college basketball front was upended just after three o’clock with Adam Zagoria’s tweet:
Sources: Two Ivy League schools are highly unlikely to play men’s hoops this year and it’s possible the whole league won’t play at all.
“I have a feeling it would be the whole league isn’t going to play,” one Ivy League asst coach.
— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) October 17, 2020
A few minutes later, Zagoria named Harvard as one of the two teams.
Multiple sources say @HarvardMBB won’t play this year, and at least one other school is on the fence. If there’s 5-6 teams, the league would still play, sources said. “It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be tough,” one coach said. “Things are getting worse everywhere.”
About 30 minutes later, Ivy Hoops Online contributor Ray Curren tweeted that Yale was the other team on the fence. He did add, however, that Dartmouth was “ready to go.”
IHO on Oct. 2 reported on the Ivy’s plans following the NCAA Division I Council’s mid-September announcement that the season could begin on November 25. At that time, league officials confirmed that there would be not play for any of the eight schools through the end of the fall term. Discussions among the various conference stakeholders were ongoing, but no decisions or timetable had been made regarding the league schedule.
Contacted by IHO for a response to Zagoria’s tweets, Ivy League Executive Director Matt Panto indicated that the information that the league had previously provided IHO remained “the most recent update regarding return to play.”
Hopes of a return for winter sports suffered a big blow earlier this week, when Yale Athletics announced that its teams would have to move from Phase 2 to Phase 0 of the league’s Phased Athletics Activity Plan due to a positive COVID-19 cluster of seven players on the men’s hockey team.
In its review of the activity status of the eight athletic departments, the Yale Daily News determined that two teams (Dartmouth, Harvard) were in Phase 2, two teams (Brown and Cornell) were in Phase 1, and four teams (Columbia, Penn, Princeton, Yale) were at Phase 0.
The Lions, Quakers and Tigers have always been at Phase 0 since each kept the large majority of undergraduate students from returning to campus in the fall semester. While Yale may be able to return to Phase 1 in a few weeks, the other three do not seem to have that potential.
“Since we have no students on campus, there is no [phasing-in] of any athletic activity nor will there be for the entirety of [the] fall semester,” Penn’s Director of Athletic Communications Mike Mahoney told the Yale Daily News.
While several teams are having difficulty meeting in-person for practice, others may have difficulty fielding rosters for the season.
The Yale Daily News reported on Sept. 14 that nine players from the 2020 men’s championship team were not registered for classes in the fall: Jalen Gabbidon (’20-’21 captain, ’20 Defensive Player of the Year), Jameel Alausa, Matthue Cotton, Michael Feinberg, Isaiah Kelly, Jake Lanford, August Mahoney, Yassine Gharram, and Emir Buyukhanli.
Gabbidon, Alausa, Feinberg, Gharram and Buyukhanli told the paper they did not have plans to return in the spring.
The Yale and Harvard women also had significant absences.
The Bulldogs were without Camilla Emsbo (Second Team All-Ivy), Jenna Clark, Klara Astrom, Alex Cade, and Ayla Elam, while the Crimson did not have Lola Mullaney (Honorable Mention All-Ivy), Rachel Levy (’19-’20 captain), Maggie McCarthy, and Maddie Stuhlreyer, as well as first years Harmoni Turner (ESPNW #42 ranking) and Elle Stauffer.
At the time, the depleted Yale rosters were noted to have only eight on the men’s side and nine for the women. The Harvard women’s roster had 12 players remaining, with three first-years and one transfer who was scheduled to sit out this season.
The ’20-’21 roster was removed from the Yale women’s website one day after IHO requested confirmation about the status of the athletes.
IHO reached out to all Ivy programs to find out if there were any comments to Zagoria’s news, as well as any present expectations for each school’s teams to play competitively after the fall break.
Responses were received from Harvard, Brown, Columbia and Cornell:
Brown Director of Athletic Communication Christopher Humm responded that no decision has been made.
Columbia Assistant Director of Athletic Communications Kyle Mattracion noted “there has been no decision from the Ivy League on basketball or any other competition at this point. Anything else about the subject would only be speculation.”
Cornell Associate Director of Athletics for Communications Jeremy Hartigan mentioned that the school has commenced Phase 2 workouts and awaits decisions from the league Presidents.
While no final decision has been made, adding these recent campus news items to the 30% increase in national COVID-19 numbers and resurgence of cases in the northeast certainly puts a return in doubt. We may have to wait a few more weeks for the official vote from the Ivy Presidents to find out if the Ancient Eight will follow the Division III Ivy League in canceling the season.
This post has been updated to include responses from Columbia and Cornell Athletics.