Ivy League suspends all fall sports: Will others follow?

Virginia Tech football players have been back in Blacksburg for "voluntary workouts" and spring training is set to begin on Jul. 24. Will it happen?

Ivy League universities Wednesday pushed off all sports to next year, a move that suspends football and other sporting activities for the fall.

“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,” the League said in a statement.

This creates an impact on college football, basketball, cross-country and more when a Division 1 athletic conference makes such a call.

Reports The New York Times:

Though the caliber of football in the Ivy League, which plays at the Football Championship Subdivision level and does not allow athletic scholarships, is far below that of the best programs in the country, the decision made by the eight presidents could have great influence among university leaders nationwide tasked with deciding when and how sports will return to college campuses.

–The New York Times

“I think other conferences around the country are going to follow,” Columbia athletic director Peter Pilling told the times Wednesday night.

Almost on cue, North Carolina and Ohio State, two major players in college sports, suspended voluntary workouts after outbreaks of the Coronavirus among athletes.

The Times adds:

Hints that the Ivy League was leaning this way became clearer on Monday when three of its schools announced plans for reopening their campuses to only some students in the fall. One of those schools, Harvard, said it would only allow 40 percent of its students — mostly freshmen — back on campus and that all classes would be held remotely. For the spring semester, Harvard said, freshmen would be sent off campus and seniors would be allowed to return for their final semester.

–The New York Times

“It’s been kind of like Santa Claus and the Easter bunny,” Dartmouth Coach Buddy Teevens said. “You kind of knew they didn’t exist and then finally you were told.”

The Ivy League became the first conference to cancel its mean’s and women’s basketball tournaments on March 10, just before the virus began to spread throughout the Northeast.

The NCAA quickly followed, canceling tournaments while the NBA and NHL pulled the plug on activities and Major League Baseball cancelled spring training game and halted the planned seasons for Minor League teams, including nearby ones in Salem and Pulaski.

Several schools tried to bring their athletes in for “voluntary workouts,” but the virus began to spread among them so most have shut down such activities.

Morehouse College, a historic African-American school, has come under fire from some for canceling its football season, the first college that offers scholarships for athletics to make such a move.

When asked by a reporter on what he thinks other college leaders should do, Morehouse President David A. Thomas responded: “I would hope every president asks themselves that question: Why am I in business? What am I here for?”

Virginia Tech started bringing in athletes for voluntary workouts in June and the NCAA has approved a six-week training camp to being on July 24 but Tech has not said what it plans for athletes or a possible season of football.

“It’s a tremendous undertaking…” Tech assistant vice president of university relations Mark Owczarski told The Roanoke Times. “We’ve tried to make the best decisions with the information that we have at the time, but understand that we may have to pivot or adapt to change to the circumstances we are faced with moving forward.”

Tech announced this week that it is moving the university’s “fan day” for sports online to severely limit person-to-person contact between players and fans. The event is set for Aug. 9.

At the high school level, the Virginia High School League, which controls high school sports, has put off a decision on whether a football season will occur in the fall.

Virginia’s Coronavirus recovery program entered Phase 3 on Jul. 1 and it requires social distancing and limits on indoor and outdoor events.

“While we’re in Phase Three, we’re still talking about social distancing,” VHSL Executive Director Billy Haun told The Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I don’t understand how you think about playing team sports while you’re social distancing. It doesn’t seem to add up to me that you can do that.”

VHSL has an executive meeting again this month and another in August. NCAA has not yet commented on the Ivy League decision. Neither has Virginia Tech or the University of Virginia and emails and phone calls have not been answered or returned.

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