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Excitement was seen in the dugout between innings for the Men's Baseball game vs Villanova on Saturday. The team is one of the first to start local competition for Penn with COVID-19 guidelines set in place. Credit: Samantha Turner

After over a year with no sporting events, the Penn Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics has received approval to move into Ivy Phase IV, meaning that it can resume local competition beginning on Saturday, March 27. It will be the first Ivy League school to compete in the wake of the COVID-19 cancellations.

Penn Athletics relayed the decision in an announcement on Thursday morning along with an unveiling of its spring schedule.  

The typical spring sports teams — baseball, softball, rowing, lacrosse, tennis, and track and field — will be competing in abbreviated seasons against strictly local competition. No team will face any Ivy League foes.

Competition kicks off this weekend with Penn baseball taking on Villanova on March 27 and track and field competing in the Penn Challenge the same day against the Wildcats along with Rider, Saint Joseph's, and Temple. 

The Quakers acted extremely quick in setting up a competition schedule, meaning that they likely knew that this was a possibility ahead of time. 

"We are thrilled that we have advanced through the Ivy phases and that competition for our spring teams has been approved," Dr. M. Grace Calhoun, the T. Gibbs Kane, Jr. W'69 Director of Athletics and Recreation said. "It is a testament to the adherence by our student-athletes and coaches to the masking and distancing policies set forth in the Campus Compact, as well as the effort by our Divisional and University administration to create and implement policies and protocols, including frequent testing, that have allowed for safe athletic activity. There is no question that it has been a difficult year for Ivy League student-athletes and coaches, and we couldn't be more excited to see our teams compete this weekend." 

The approval only allows the Quakers to compete against local schools, which likely means Ivy League play is off the table. Interestingly though, Penn is scheduled to compete against Lehigh University, which, located in Bethlehem, Pa., is farther away from Penn's campus than Princeton University. 

The Ivy League was the first conference to suspend its spring athletic season in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, but unlike most other conferences, it did not resume fall and winter sports. It was the only Division 1 basketball conference to not hold a season this year, thereby forfeiting its automatic March Madness bid. Last month, Penn received approval to resume practicing and was told that if it moved into Phase IV it would be able to compete locally. 

Fans, spectators, and media — including The Daily Pennsylvanian — will not be allowed to attend home games. Attendance at road games will be determined by the host. Penn intends to stream most home games via the Penn Video Network.