The Ivy League presidents released a joint statement Wednesday afternoon unanimously announcing the cancellation of all spring athletic practices and competitions for the remainder of the academic year in an effort to combat the quickly spreading coronavirus.
“I think everyone feels terribly, (especially) for the seniors,” said Director of Athletics Jack Hayes. “We want to do what we can to be supportive (of the athletes) and assist them in any way we can,” he added.
This announcement comes on the heels of a March 10 email to the University community stating that “attendance for athletic events (would) be restricted to team members, coaches, essential staff and three invited guests per team member,” Provost Richard Locke P’18 wrote. He added that out-of-season sports are prohibited from practicing.
The Ivy League’s cancellation of athletics does not extend to winter sports currently in postseason — neither to teams nor individual student athletes — and instead delegates the choice on whether or not to continue to each institution, according to the Ivy League joint statement.
This decision has produced mixed reviews from the University community.
“I’m understanding and conscientious of the bigger issue at hand,” said Kia McNeill, head coach of the women’s soccer team, after scheduled postseason workouts were canceled. “What are you going to do about it? Better safe than sorry,” she added.
The men’s basketball team did not qualify for the Ivy League tournament, which the league canceled Tuesday. But the team did plan to play in a non-NCAA postseason tournament.
“Our season is over,” said Men’s Basketball Head Coach Mike Martin ’04, confirming that Brown decided not to continue with postseason play. He expressed disappointment over the inability to continue a winning season, but he and the team “understand the decision and are in total support.”
One anonymous source within the athletic department who requested anonymity out of fear for personal and professional repercussions said that many coaches viewed the decision as “too drastic” and “rash.”
The source within the athletic department cited the World Health Organization officially labeling the coronavirus a pandemic as a key reason why the universities moved so “shortsightedly.” The source also suspected that Harvard’s recent decision to ask students not to return from spring break pressured the rest of the Ivy League to respond similarly.
Sydney Scott ’22, a track and field athlete, wrote in an email to The Herald that the University can’t do “much else to help us other than to allow us to have the chance to compete or at the very least continue to train.” Scott said that the team is not allowed to have official practices, and the varsity weight room is closed.
“None of the athletes had a say in this decision and as far as I know, the majority of other schools outside of the Ivy League have not canceled their spring athletic seasons,” Scott wrote. “At the moment such a big decision doesn’t seem necessary when so much is at stake for the athletes,” she added.
“We were all completely devastated and angry when our coaches told us the news,” softball player Ivy Hobson ’22 said. “It’s one thing to have your season canceled, but it’s another to have it canceled with no notice or closure. It absolutely sucks,” Hobson added. “All our hard work disappeared in a second. I appreciate the concern for our safety, but right now my heart is broken.”
A senior student athlete who requested anonymity out of fear of personal and professional repercussions commented, “the fact that we got canceled so quickly after the WHO labelled COVID-19 a pandemic shows how little Brown and the Ivy League care about sports, and how they just want to cover their own skin.” The source went on to say there are a number of schools across the country that have “gone online but still have sports, so it feels really drastic.”
The source added that athletes are “really sad” and feel “betrayed by the fact that eight presidents, who never even come to sporting events, had the last say on our (athletic) careers.”
Hayes said he “can understand everybody’s frustration,” but added that he does not know “what will happen in the coming days at other institutions.”