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Ivy League cancels spring athletic competitions


Princeton University athletes participate in socially-distanced practices as part of Phase I of five-phase process for return to competition. Courtesy of: @princetonathletics/Instagram.

The Ivy League will not see athletic competition for the entire duration of the 2020-21 academic year, though there may be potential for “local spring competition” if there is a drastic improvement in public health conditions.

It has been nearly a year since the Ivy League last held athletic competition. 


After having previously canceled the Ivy League fall and winter sports seasons, the Ivy League Council of Presidents announced Thursday that the conference would not hold a “traditional” Ivy League season in the spring. 

The announcement cited travel concerns, campus visitation restrictions, and local and state coronavirus regulations as things that are “not compatible with the Ivy League’s usual competition schedule,” and cited student-athlete health and well-being as the main motivation for the decision.

“Athletics training opportunities and practices for enrolled student-athletes will continue to be permitted, provided they are structured in accordance with each institution’s procedures and applicable state and local regulations,” the release reads. Teams began holding in-person practices on campus earlier this semester.

The announcement did state that, as stipulated in the League’s five-phase athletics plan, limited local competition may be possible later in the spring, should there be significant improvements in public health conditions. Princeton is currently in Phase I of the plan, which allows for masked and socially-distanced practices. Phase II allows for more relaxed practice regulations, as long as they fall in line with the institution’s protocols. Phase III allows for full practices to be held. Phase IV would mark a full return to competition. 

“We regret the many sacrifices that have been required in response to the pandemic, and we appreciate the resilience of our student-athletes, coaches and staff in the face of adversity during this difficult and unusual year,” the Council of Presidents wrote in a statement released as part of the announcement.

“While we would like nothing better than to deliver a complete season of competition, these are the necessary decisions for the Ivy League in the face of the health concerns posed by the ongoing and dangerous pandemic,” they added.


In an email sent to spring student-athletes, Mollie Marcoux Samaan ’91, Princeton’s director of athletics expressed hope surrounding the possibility of local competition later in the semester.

“While this is not exactly the news we had all hoped for, I am very much looking forward to meeting with you to talk about ways that we can work collectively to move toward more robust training opportunities and hopefully some competition later this spring,” she wrote.

Whether and how that late-spring competition could occur is unclear. And because the League does not typically grant special exemptions for student-athletes, it’s unlikely that students currently taking leaves of absence or taking courses from outside of the Princeton area — substantial portions of some teams — would be able to return to campus if competition were to occur. 

This is a developing story and it will be updated as more information becomes available.

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