A long wait may be close to over.
Since the Ivy League canceled all spring athletic events on March 11, 2020, Penn teams have not had any formal practices or games. In an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian, Penn Senior Associate Athletic Director for Governance and Administration Kevin Bonner issued the following statement:
"Penn Athletics and Recreation and its intercollegiate programs are currently observing the University quiet period. Our administrators and coaches continue to plan for the resumption of athletic and recreational activity, which meets the guidelines of the Campus Compact and Ivy League phases.
"The Division has received University approval to begin athletic activity on Feb. 1, provided the City of Philadelphia does not issue updated guidance that prevents these plans from being initiated. Teams will begin conditioning and physically distant skill activity by season, with spring sports being prioritized. We have also received approval for a gradual reopening of the [Pottruck Health and Fitness Center] on Feb. 1, and we will be communicating details once finalized."
The statement does not say anything about when and if the winter sports season will resume, although this development provides a reasonable level of optimism that a late start to the season is possible, given that formal athletic activity was never allowed before the fall athletic season, which was cancelled.
The Ivy League remains the only Division I basketball conference out of 32 that is not currently playing basketball.
Although teams have not been allowed to formally practice or use team facilities, many Penn athletes have practiced together off campus in informal settings. For example, five cross country runners took a training trip to Colorado to train in altitude in the fall, and countless teammates roomed and trained together off campus last semester.
In the absence of physical training, virtually every Penn team has continued to hold weekly Zoom meetings and has provided athletes with at-home training and conditioning instructions.
However, the inability to meet and train in person has taken a toll on the teams, especially on the freshman athletes, many of whom have yet to set foot on campus.
This news is significant not only for athletes, but to any members of the Penn community who use Pottruck, which is the main gym on Penn's campus, and has been closed since March, leaving many students without a place to exercise.
It is unclear to what extent Pottruck will open and to whom it will be available, but it is the first news about a reopening since the pandemic began. Throughout the pandemic, Pottruck has offered a variety of virtual exercise programming and esports tournaments in lieu of intramural sports.
What plays out with Penn Athletics over the coming weeks and months remains to be seen, but this statement comes as a welcome sign to many who had been hoping for a return to competition.