While other conferences have already decided to move forward with their seasons, the Ivy League’s decision about the 2021 season is still pending.
In an email on Thursday, Jan. 14 , the Ivy League told athletes and coaches that it has yet to determine whether the spring sports season will occur.
“Unfortunately, the current trends of the virus have not improved, and in fact have gotten worse,” league officials wrote in the update. “Students should understand that there must be significant changes in the state of the pandemic before competition becomes feasible and that a number of factors are outside institutional control. Should competition become feasible this term it will, at best, result in an abbreviated, and likely significantly curtailed, competition schedule."
Tuesday’s update, which marked the Ivy League’s first official guidance on spring athletics since November, acknowledged that many spring athletes may need to make enrollment decisions and plan for the spring without any final answer on the status of competition. In November, the league announced the cancellation of winter sports and the delay of all spring competition through at least February.
Penn Director of Athletics and Recreation M. Grace Calhoun passed along the conference’s memo to spring athletes in an email, reiterating that a final decision regarding competition has not been made, but that there is a growing belief that the Ivy League presidents will make a decision about the fate of the spring sports season sometime in February.
Any possibility of spring competition will be less than a complete season and with partial teams. For competition to be permissible, COVID-19 conditions would need to improve significantly, and campus restrictions on travel and visitors would need to be loosened.
The conference is bringing back activity in phases, and spring phasing has been altered moderately to allow for more sport-related activity. This phasing is intended as a path to competition, whenever it is deemed safe to resume. Moving through athletic phases will rely on campus guidelines and level progression.
In-person, organized strength and conditioning training will resume in tandem with the University’s color-coded levels of reopening. Penn is currently transitioning from the “Yellow Phase” into the “Green Phase,” following Philadelphia guidelines. On Feb. 1, students were permitted to use athletic facilities in small gatherings, but this has been delayed due to a snowstorm.
Meanwhile, hundreds of schools throughout the country and several conferences have already released full baseball, lacrosse, volleyball, and football schedules.
The SEC will stick with the status quo for its 2021 college baseball schedule after much discussion of alternative scheduling protocols. The SEC will play 10 conference weekends of three-game series and allow teams to play up to 26 non-conference games, as usual. The conference schedule is comprised of the same matchups planned for 2020, meaning that every team will have the same home and away series as that of the canceled season.
All conferences except the Ivy League, including the AAC, American East, Big East, Big South, and Big 10 have planned for lacrosse schedules, beginning as early as Feb. 13. The schedules are not traditional, with some using a double round-robin, some playing a variation of six to eight games, and some split into pods.
The Pac-12, Big 10, AVCA, and Big 12 conferences have released their schedules for volleyball, with a regular season going from Jan. 22 to April 4. There will be a 48-team bracket, with 30 automatic qualifiers and 18 at-large selections as of now. There are usually 32 automatic qualifiers, but the Ivy League and the Big West are not playing this season.
The FCS conference, one for colleges that did not participate in the fall season, has plans for the spring 2021 season. The NCAA approved of a spring playoff reduced from 24 schools to 16, with four rounds of games beginning April 18 continuing through May 16.
All in all, these conferences have precautions in place, from postponing games if teams test positive, to playing in pods and setting up schedules with back-to-back games to reduce transmission. However, the Ivy League delaying its decision shows a dedication to safety. Its final announcement on spring sports should be released sometime in February.