Cornell Women's Lacrosse players. Photo courtesy of Cornell Athletics/Madison Epperson

ITHACA, N.Y.—Cornell University will have to wait another few months before revving up its athletics department for competition again, as the Ivy League announced today that it was suspending all spring sports competition due to the risks posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The conference did, however, leave the door open for schools to individually participate in sports competition later this spring if the public health situation improves.

The decision was announced Thursday afternoon by the Ivy League Council of Presidents, which said that discontinuing spring sports for 2021 is the only way to logically navigate the restrictions put into place by different schools in the Ivy League.

“Due to the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, and in order to maintain compliance both with campus travel, visitor and gathering policies and also with the state guidelines governing each institution, the Ivy League will not conduct conference seasons or conference postseason events in any spring sports,” the announcement said.

The league had already canceled its fall and winter sports seasons, becoming the first collegiate conference to do so each time, with some other schools and conferences following suit. It had initially been aiming to delay its spring sports seasons to try to outlast the pandemic. It became the first collegiate sports league to cancel its spring sports seasons, which were tentatively allowed to begin at the end of February before Thursday’s announcement.

“Cornell athletics welcomes the possible return to intercollegiate competition and will do everything in our power to make that a reality this spring, said Cornell Athletic Director Andy Noel. “Our student-athletes and coaches have had to travel a hard road, and it’s of the utmost importance to get them back to doing what they love as soon as it is deemed safe. We will take advantage of any and every opportunity to be together as a Big Red family, starting with in-person activity and advancing to intercollegiate competition if conditions permit later this spring.”

Training and practices are still allowed to be held. The league said that it may allow local, non-conference play among teams at some point during the spring, meaning teams could theoretically play other schools from their region but not in the Ivy League, but that any competition held would have to adhere to each school’s university visitor policy and any other regulations.

The presidents acknowledged that their announcement would come as frustrating for some, particularly schools in places where the pandemic has begun to subside thanks to public health tactics and vaccination distribution, but that this was the only way to fairly and safely apply the same regulations to student athletes that have been implemented for students.

“We know that this news will come as a disappointment to many in our community,” they said. “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. 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. We will continue to monitor the situation as we move forward so that our universities can determine whether Ivy League principles and evolving health conditions might allow for limited, local competition later this spring.”

Photo taken by Madison Epperson/Cornell Athletics. 

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com