The Ivy League announced Wednesday that there will be no sports, including football, on its campuses this fall — a decision with potentially huge ramifications for college athletics.
The League, which was the first Division I conference in the country to cancel its post-season basketball tournaments as the coronavirus pandemic ramped up, made waves again as the first Division I conference to make a decision on fall sports.
"With the information available to us today regarding the continued spread of the virus, we simply do not believe we can create and maintain an environment for intercollegiate athletic competition that meets our requirements for safety and acceptable levels of risk, consistent with the policies that each of our schools is adopting as part of its reopening plans this fall," the Ivy League Council of Presidents said in a statement.
The announcement did not mention when or if any of the sports will be rescheduled. Decisions on that and what will happen to winter and spring sports will be determined at a later date.
Part of the Ivy League's decision may come from its fairly unique structure. Although its members are Division I schools, Ivy League schools do not compete in post-season play in football, the fall sport with the biggest following. All of the teams play one another, along with three non-conference opponents. There's no post-season bowl games or playoffs to worry about.
Another factor that could have impacted the Ivy League's decision is the lack of big-time money tied to its sports programs compared to other conferences. The Ivy League is almost pedestrian when measured against other conferences, where schools have millions of dollars on the line in both TV deals and ticket sales from football games — making it much more financially difficult for them to say there won't be games this fall.
But the Ivy League still has a fair amount of sway in college sports. Member schools have some of the oldest and longest-running athletic programs in the country. Last year, the NCAA celebrated the 150th anniversary of Princeton and Rutgers meeting in the first intercollegiate football game ever.
Harvard was supposed to start its 2020 season on Sept. 19 at home against Georgetown. The Crimson were also scheduled to host the Yale Bulldogs at Harvard Stadium, a matchup that consistently draws in thousands of spectators. This year will mark the first time since World War II that the matchup, referred to simply as "The Game," won't take place.
According to the League's announcement of the decision, fall sport athletes will not use a season of either Ivy League or NCAA eligibity whether or not they choose to enroll in classes.
The announcement comes the same week that Harvard announced that only 40 percent of undergrads will return to campus in the fall.
It also comes at a time of increased uncertainty about whether there will be a college football season at all. With reports of football players at large programs testing positive for the coronavirus, questions on what will happen if games are played and someone tests positive and general concerns about students' ability to maintain social distancing on campus, there's no guarantee there will be football at campuses in 2020.