The Ivy League has cancelled fall intercollegiate athletics for the 2020–2021 school year. No competition will take place before at least January 1, 2021.
Athletics Director Mollie Marcoux Samaan ’91 announced the news on July 8 at a webinar attended by over 700 Princeton student-athletes via Zoom.
“The Ivy League presidents have determined that while they fully understand the value of the Ivy League athletic experience,” she said, “what they anticipate conditions being in the months ahead will not allow us to compete in any intercollegiate athletic competition during the fall semester.”
There would be no fall preseason, said Marcoux Samaan. But fall-sport athletes who spend the semester practicing will not use up one of their five seasons of NCAA eligibility. And Marcoux Samaan emphasized that the University and Athletic Department would “support athletes who decide to take a year off.”
“I obviously can’t tell you that things will be the same as always,” said Marcoux Samaan. “But I can tell you that I and the athletics community are committed to making your athletics journey as meaningful and impactful as possible.”
Marcoux Samaan ended the 20-minute webinar with an appeal to sportsmanship, leadership, and continued community growth. “The way that we respond to this moment will be the measure of our success,” she said. “I am confident that the Tigers will emerge stronger than ever.”
The decision comes as members of the athletic conference roll out plans for learning and residential experiences for the coming year. On July 6, Princeton announced plans to bring incoming first-years and rising juniors back to campus in the fall, and sophomores and the graduating seniors back in the spring.
The decision is the latest in a string of disappointments for Ivy League athletes. The Ivy League announced in early March that it was cancelling the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments and severely limiting other winter sports events. A day later, on March 11, the League became the first NCAA athletic conference to suspend all spring sports practices and competitions through the remainder of the academic year in response to COVID-19.
The NCAA Division I Council voted in March to allow member institutions to grant all spring-sport athletes an additional year of eligibility. But the Ivy League turned down that option, announcing on April 2 that its notoriously stringent principles surrounding undergraduate athletics would stand.
Its eight member schools would not grant eligibility waivers to spring-sport athletes who withdrew from their institutions and returned the following year, nor could an athlete seeking to continue her athletic career enroll in a graduate program at her undergraduate alma mater.
“Consistent with core long-standing principles,” read a statement from the Ivy League Presidents, “Ivy League athletes are students first and foremost. No student-athlete should withdraw from the spring 2020 term for the sole purpose of preserving athletics eligibility.”
This story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes available.