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Ivy League calls off fall sports amid coronavirus pandemic

In this Nov. 23, 2019, file photo, Harvard's

In this Nov. 23, 2019, file photo, Harvard's Devin Darrington runs against Yale during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Haven, Conn. Credit: AP/Arnold Gold

The Ivy League on Wednesday announced that its members will play no intercollegiate sports until after Jan. 1 because of concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, suspending all its fall sports indefinitely and dramatically reshaping the schedules for winter sports at its eight schools and across the country.

“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 joint statement announcing the decision.

The conference is the first in Division I to suspend its football season though it could consider playing football – and the other fall sports – at another point on the calendar, if the pandemic is better controlled.Whether the Ivy League’s move is a harbinger of what is to come for college football across the country is difficult to gauge. In March, it was the first conference to cancel its men’s and women’s basketball championship tournaments before so many others did.

However, Ivy League universities do not depend on football revenue in the same way that Football Bowl Subdivision schools do. The Power Five conferences – the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-12 and SEC – and Notre Dame reportedly earn more than $4 billion from their many television contracts and their athletic departments are weathering a financial storm.

Stanford, which has among the highest endowments of all those 65 schools, dropped 11 of its 36 sports earlier on Wednesday.

“There are important decisions to be made in the coming weeks and by late July there should be more clarity about the fall season,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey told the Associated Press. That’s also the case in the other Power Five conferences, which all begin play on Aug. 29. Those schools already have athletes back on campus for workouts, though some programs have halted them because of outbreaks. Both Ohio State and North Carolina paused football workouts on Wednesday.

Because the Ivy League schools compete in the Football Championship Subdivision and do not participate in the NCAAs championship tournament, they could play a stand-alone season with just seven conference games in the spring.

Its decision is more likely to affect other FCS conferences. The Patriot League has meetings later this week and just saw more than a dozen non-conference football games for its members wiped out by the Ivy League decision.

Joe D’Antonio, commissioner of the FCS Colonial Athletic Association where Stony Brook competes, said the Ivy League’s decision won’t impact the CAA.“We have great respect for what the Ivy League’s position is, but right now we’re staying the course to have our season,” he said. “Every conference is trying to make the best decision for that conference and we are no different as we meet almost daily with athletics and medical officials to make our re-socializing decisions.”

A spokesman for the Northeast Conference – in which LIU competes – said it is “having extensive discussions about different return-to-play scenarios and timelines” but hasn’t made any final decisions about its fall sports.

The impact of the move also affects Ivy League men’s and women’s basketball programs and will send a ripple through the college basketball landscape.

Basketball programs – as well as other winter season sports – begin to practice in October and play non-conference games in November and December before conference play tips off on Jan. 2, 2021. The Ivy League decision suspends or cancels those games and potentially leaves all those non-conference opponents with open dates.

Stony Brook has non-conference men’s basketball games scheduled against Yale and Brown before the calendar turns to 2021. The Seawolves will likely be looking to fill those dates now.

“We knew this would be a unique year for college sports and we’re seeing that now,” Stony Brook athletic director Shawn Heilbron said. “Scheduling has been fluid for all sports and we will adjust.”

Hofstra has a non-conference home game scheduled against Princeton.

“We will continue to evaluate our options as it relates to non-conference scheduling in men’s basketball,” Hofstra athletic director Rick Cole Jr. said. “Although disappointed we won’t face a quality opponent like Princeton this season, we certainly respect the decision of the Ivy League. We look forward to scheduling them again.”

St. John’s and LIU have no men’s basketball games scheduled against Ivy League opponents.

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