Ivy League cancels basketball season for 2020-21 as part of ban on winter sports due to COVID-19

The Ivy League will not be participating in any winter sports for the 2020-21 season, including college basketball, league sources told CBS Sports. The league later made the move official Thursday, announcing the cancellation of all winter sports. 

“Consistent with its commitment to safeguard the health and well-being of student-athletes, the greater campus community and general public, the Ivy League Council of Presidents has decided that league schools will not conduct intercollegiate athletics competition in winter sports during the 2020-21 season,” the Ivy League announced in a release.

The league is the first Division I conference to nix winter sports, repeating a precedent it set earlier this year when the Ivy League was first to cancel all its fall sports and the first to cancel its basketball conference tournament in March. 

Coaches were informed of the decision by athletic department officials on video conference calls Thursday evening, sources said, with subsequent team meetings scheduled after that to notify the players. 

The Ivy League presidents came to their decision in the past 72 hours, one source said, and spent Wednesday and Thursday preparing how to explain their decision to the hundreds of student-athletes and dozens of coaches whose seasons have now been eliminated. The Ivy League’s decision comes 13 days before the scheduled start of the 2020-21 college basketball season, though the Ivy League decided this past summer not to allow any of its scholarship sports to play prior to the end of the winter semester.

This is not a shocking vote — far from it. Multiple Ivy League sources, dating back to early September, expressed pessimism about the notion that league presidents would allow for winter sports/a basketball season. Some programs have yet to even hold indoor workouts to this point. Added one source, “We don’t need money to play. In the Ivy League, it’s 100% a health and safety issue.”

Coaches across the league have been bracing for this for weeks, though some wondered recently if the decision might have waited until after Thanksgiving.  

The news lands as coronavirus cases continue to speedily rise in almost every state. The United States has set records almost daily in the past week for the most single-day cases. On Wednesday, the COVID Tracking Project showed more than 144,000 new COVID-19 cases, which beat Tuesday’s United States record of 136,000-plus cases. Wednesday’s update reported 65,368 hospitalizations due to COVID-19, which is also a United States record. 

The eight Ivy League institutions are: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale. It was Yale that was projected to be the best of the bunch this season; the Bulldogs were ranked 99th in CBS Sports’ preseason projection of all 357 Division I men’s basketball teams. Bethune-Cookman previously announced it will sit out the 2020-21 college basketball season, making it nine Division I teams who are opting out of the season.


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