The Ivy League announced Thursday evening that winter sports for the 2020-21 season were cancelled in an effort to mitigate transmission of COVID-19. Was eliminating Ivy hoops the right move? Our contributors offer their thoughts:
With the arrival of colder weather, COVID-19 cases/hospitalizations sharply on the rise throughout the country and an effective vaccine months away (at best), I believe the citizens of this nation should restrict activities to those that are essential. While I enjoy college athletics, especially Ivy League basketball, I do not feel they are essential. To me, the benefits of playing this season do not appear to outweigh the long-term and short-term individual, community, national and global risks. Others will argue that college athletics are essential, from economic and emotional perspectives. If institutional leaders, running organizations that have already lost millions of dollars over the last eight-plus months and reduced athletic department budgets, feel that it is imperative to the financial well-being of their schools and conferences to play games this winter, then they need to put in the planning and resources necessary to ensure the safest environment possible for all those directly (players, school staffs, league staffs, reporters) and indirectly (family members, on and off-campus communities) involved.
As the number of cancellations in football games and pauses in basketball practices across the country, it appears the virus has again outsmarted the best designed plans of conference experts. In that context, the Ivy League presidents, as well as the leaders at Bethune-Cookman and the NESCAC schools, deserve credit for choosing science over emotion (and or politics) and health over dollars with respect to their athletes.
I think it really hit home when Ken Pomeroy tweeted out that with the Ivy League cancellation, Maine and New Hampshire are set to become the longest continuous rivalry in college basketball, which began in 1905. The game and world were a little different back then.
You know it’s only a sport, not overly important to the functioning of our society. Your brain is aware that one season of basketball versus saving lives in the throes of a deadly pandemic is a blowout from the opening tip.
But it still hurts. And it will at various times this winter, especially as we enter next March. So many memories have been made watching Ivy basketball, the most prominent for me, of course, being Yale’s 2016 run that culminated in the NCAA Tournament win over Baylor. I can’t imagine how the coaches and players feel, many of whom I have gotten to know over the years. Unlike eight months ago, at least this didn’t come as a surprise. “The writing has been on the wall for a while,” one coach texted me. The recent spike just made the Ivy League’s decision much more obvious.
There is no blame or malice toward the Ivy League, by the way. In a way, I’m proud that there is still a place where the term student-athlete has at least a hint of not being an oxymoron. If it’s not safe for all students to be on campus full-time, how can you justify student-athletes traveling to other states to play a game?
I mentioned the 2016 Yale team, and my wingman for the New Haven Register at the end was columnist Chip Malafronte, who tragically died this summer at 48, not of COVID but after a long battle with cancer. There are more important things than basketball games.
Ivy League hoops will return. Sadly, many of the great seniors – Paul Atkinson, Brendan Barry, Jimmy Boeheim – probably won’t. However, life is full of things we can’t control, no matter how much we want to. This is certainly one of them. So mask up and we’ll see you next November.
I fully support the Ivy League’s decision. While I am not a current Ivy League student-athlete, I was a varsity letter winner on the Penn women’s track and field team from 2004 to 2007, so I’ve given some thought to how I would feel if I were a student-athlete today. My confidence as an athlete diminished after I had a bad week training, was sick or injured, tired, or if I somehow felt unprepared for a track and field meet. Given all the limitations today with social distancing and capacity restrictions, athletes are probably feeling physically unprepared for a great basketball season. I’d say scrap this basketball season, work hard to the best of one’s ability given the restrictions, and be ready for a (hopefully) full, unrestricted season next year.
Ivy basketball was cancelled both because of the expanded virus outbreak in this country and because students are not physically present on many of the Ivy campuses. Hence, the Ivy League views it to be inconsistent with the mission of the member institutions for athletes only to be both on campus and participating in intercollegiate athletics.
With the Patriot League permitting league-only contests, the Ivy will be the only league to cancel its season.
I do not take issue with this concern. But I do think that the league has opportunities to reverse, even if only on a singular 2020 basis, some it its outdated policies and not penalize its student-athletes.
The Ivy currently does not permit student-athletes, enrolled on campus to take a redshirt or medically mandated year off. This seems overly harsh in a year which will probably never replicate itself.
The league should make an exception and permit student-athletes who enrolled this year and are seniors to come back, attend graduate school on campus and have one last year of eligibility. Not permitting this only hurts the student-athletes, who the league is ostensibly trying to protect, as well as the long term health and viability of the conference.
How? There will be a mass exodus of seniors to other programs in 2021. Just look at the portal. It is dotted in many sports, including basketball with Ivy athletes.
The Ivy position will undoubtedly be used as a recruiting tool against players trying to decide between, say, Harvard, Stanford and Northwestern.
If a debater at Yale or Cornell didn’t complete all of his or her course work and came back in 2021, would that individual be barred from participating on the debate team? The answer is clearly no. Why should athletes be treated differently?
How can you remember something that never was?
Well, the 2020-21 Ivy season is gone before it began, and yet we won’t forget it soon. After March Muddle, the Ivy Tournament’s abrupt cancellation, we hoped for a disease contained and a season unrestrained — or abbreviated, with limited travel. Play the league; play the Big 5. But by the time of the Ivy announcement, with new cases nationwide approaching 1 million per week, even the most enthusiastic fans would have a hard time arguing for a slate of games.
So I won’t set foot into the Palestra this year to cover women’s hoops. I’ll live. And I might not have if I’d gone to all those games — all that yelling can kick a lot of viral particles into the air. (The director of my community choir, also now sidelined, mused the other night over Zoom, “I never thought I would have the most dangerous job in the world.”) I won’t get to see Quakers coach Mike McLaughlin calmly pointing out an official’s mistaken call — it’s bound to happen sooner or later, right? I won’t see Penn guard Kayla Padilla showing off even stronger skills — and more consistency — than she displayed in her explosive first year. I’d especially been looking forward to a second year of her contests and contrasts with Abbey Hsu of Columbia, the other standout guard from last year’s first-year players. And which new players would have been the blazing revelations of this phantom season?
I’ll confess that I also was looking forward to watching an Ivy season with no Bella Alarie. I’m a basketball fan, and Alarie is superb; but she was playing for Princeton, and Princeton has won often enough as far as I’m concerned. It saddens me, though, that we’ve now lost the senior years of, among others, Princeton’s Carlie Littlefield, the very model of a modern point guard. And Penn’s seniors, led by center and force of nature Eleah Parker: How good was she going to be this year? How much fun would it be, again, to watch Michae Jones light up the court?
We’ll never know. And we’ll remember this season for the tantalizing might-have-beens.
See you next fall.
Selfishly, I’m bummed about there being no Ivy League basketball season. The conference made the decision that felt the most comfortable to them, and that was to unfortunately cancel basketball and other winter sports. It’s out of safety precautions, and regardless of your opinion on the decision and COVID-19, you have to respect it. Having no basketball season sucks, and the winter won’t be the same without going to back-to-backs every weekend. Most importantly, I’m so bummed out for all the student-athletes, especially the seniors. They’ve all worked incredibly hard to get the opportunity to play division one basketball, and it’s heartbreaking to have your season taken from you. Fortunately, the conference will allow athletes to retain their year of eligibility within the league, so player won’t have to transfer out like they traditionally would after their academic senior year. I’m sure some players will take advantage of that, but since the Ivy League doesn’t allow teams to offer athletic scholarships, some players may not be willing to pay another year of graduate tuition. Those players would rather transfer out of the Ivy League to spend their final year of eligibility on scholarship. I hope that won’t be the case, and players will want to complete all four years of eligibility at their Ivy League institution.
From what we know, it sounds as if a vaccine for COVID-19 could be on its way early in the new year. If that’s the case, then hopefully we’ll be able to see some Ivy hoops next year. Until then, stay healthy and stay safe. Ivy League basketball will come back next year better than ever.
Ivy League basketball gives us something rare in a NCAA landscape of revenue sports where there’s always greater exploitation of students on the horizon: a culture where sport is put in its proper perspective as an extracurricular pursuit of higher achievement rather than a cash cow that universities depend on milking just to sustain themselves. Accepting the health risks that come with gathering to play hoops just as we stare down the darkest days of the pandemic would have been deeply irresponsible and out of character for the Ivy League after it led the way in March by canceling the Ivy League Tournament before other conferences followed suit. Sometimes doing the right thing is painful, but it’s still the right thing to do. I feel for the players, coaches and other personnel who worked hard to plan for a season that they’ll never get to experience, and the Ivy League probably should have announced what felt like an inevitable decision earlier so that students and coaches could better plan their immediate futures in advance. But canceling the 2020-21 Ivy League basketball season is the right thing to do.