Ivy League Cancels Winter Sports, As Other Leagues Contemplate Next Steps

In what may be a harbinger for other leagues, the Ivy League has announced it is canceling winter sports for the 2020-21 season, according to a report by ESPN.

As the pandemic hits what many are calling its second wave, winter sports like basketball and wrestling have been in a holding pattern. The Ivy League was one of the first to cancel fall sports, and that proved to be the catalyst for other leagues to make similar moves on football and other activities.

The Ivy League also was among the first to stop play in March of this year, halting its basketball tournament as the pandemic accelerated.

“This is definitely not a decision we want to make, but I know it’s the right decision for the Ivy League,” Robin Harris, the conference’s executive director, told ESPN.

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Sports affected by the Ivy League decision include men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, indoor track and field, swimming, and fencing.

So far, NCAA schools are being more cautious about announcing schedules for winter sports. The NCAA recently committed to a 27 game schedule for basketball in the 2020-21 season. Announcements on the start dates for teams are expected soon.

The Ivy League is also postponing spring sports until at least the end of February. Any plans to play football in the spring, as was rumored, are apparently shelved.

While the Ivy League rarely gets the national sports spotlight, its decision is significant. Other conferences are on the fence about winter sports, particularly as campuses are mostly in online sessions for regular students.

Huge money is at stake. The NCAA rights to college basketball’s March Madness tournament alone were secured by CBS and Turner through 2032 at slightly more than $19 billion in a deal that runs through 2032.

Add in the rights to regional basketball game broadcasts that dot the calendar, and it provides the NCAA and its teams with a vast majority of their revenue. That’s particularly true in a year when attendance at games will be limited.

While the Ivy League is rarely televised and is not part of the so-called Power 5 conferences that dominate collegiate sports, its influence punches higher among executives and athletic directors.

Ivy League schools include Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, Penn and Columbia.

Some college basketball teams already have canceled workouts and reported that their student athletes have tested positive for COVID-19.

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