The Ivy League announced Tuesday the cancelation of its men’s and women’s conference basketball tournaments set to get underway this weekend, citing concerns over the coronavirus called COVID-19.
The regular-season winners will now get the automatic bids to the respective NCAA tournaments, the way it was done before the league began a conference tournament in 2017.
Princeton will represent on the women’s side and Yale on the men’s side.
Ivy League cancels tournaments for public safety
The Ivy League said it made its decision with the “health of students as well as the campus and general community in mind.” The games were to be played Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Lavietes Pavillion in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Harvard’s campus.
“We understand and share the disappointment with student-athletes, coaches and fans who will not be able to participate in these tournaments,” Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris said in a statement. “Regrettably, the information and recommendations presented to us from public health authorities and medical professionals have convinced us that this is the most prudent decision.”
Sports events continue to be canceled around the country to try and prevent the spread of the virus. The number of positive or presumed positive cases in Massachusetts is up to 41 as of Monday. There are 15 cases in Cambridge’s Middlesex County, per NBC Boston.
All tickets for the tournament will be refunded in full, the league said. It is the first conference tournament to be canceled in Division I. Some Division III NCAA tournament games at Johns Hopkins were played without crowds over coronavirus concerns. Other institutions are implementing fan limits at games.
NCAA: Neither advisory panel nor CDC recommends canceling
The NCAA released a statement reiterated in a statement that schools and conferences make their own decisions on their events, while the NCAA makes decisions on its events. The organization made an advisory panel that has been relaying suggestions daily based on local information.
“Neither the NCAA COVID-19 advisory panel, made up of leading public health and infectious disease experts in America, nor the CDC or local health officials have advised against holding sporting events,” the statement reads. “In the event circumstances change, we will make decisions accordingly.”
Coaches, players react to sudden end of season
The sudden cancelation means certain teams’ seasons abruptly finished, barring a rare at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams responded with an online petition to reinstate the tournament.
“The hypocrisy of our Ivy League presidents is baffling and alarming,” the petition reads. “We are disappointed and disheartened that they would discriminate against one sport and allow the others to continue to compete. Other conferences, such as the SEC and Pac-12, are still scheduled to host their men’s basketball championship tournaments.”
On the men’s side that’s Harvard, Princeton and Penn. Bryce Aiken, who leads Harvard scorers with 22.2 points per game, called it a “total disregard for the players and teams.”
Harvard defeated Princeton, its quarterfinal matchup, twice this season and beat Yale in two of the three meetings.
Penn’s men’s basketball coach Steve Donahue said he didn’t see the decision coming. Via the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“To pull this from our kids, it’s the most horrific thing I’ve dealt with as a coach.”
He took issue with the inconsistencies in cancelations from the Ivy League, as did Penn women’s head coach Mike McLaughlin. They were also to play in the tournament.
“To allow these other sports to continue this weekend and cancel this tournament is really hard to explain to your young ladies,” McLaughlin said, via the Inquirer. “They’re very intelligent. It’s not OK for them to play, for their safety, while it’s OK for others. It’s wrong in so many ways. ... The hypocrisy is difficult for really mature young ladies to accept.”
As the runner-up in the Ivy, Penn will get an automatic bid to the NIT. On the women’s side, Yale and Columbia were given an early end to the seniors’ collegiate careers.
Ivy sets fan limitations, cancels out-of-season events
In addition to the cancelation of the tournament, the Ivy League announced it would set “highly-restrictive, in-venue spectator limitations for all other upcoming campus athletics events.” It will also cancel all out-of-season practices and competitions.
“Following a number of league-wide discussions throughout the last several weeks, we have decided to exercise caution in the interest of student-athletes, fans and the general community,” Harris said in the release.
Postseason competition “may continue” as planned “in accordance with institutional policies” for other winter teams not hosting, it said.
The fan limits will impact postseason play in hockey and regular season play for the spring sports that are already underway.
Cornell will not allow fans at ECAC, NCAA hockey tournaments
Shortly after the Ivy League announced its new policies, Cornell announced it would not allow fans at Lynah Rink for its top-ranked men’s and women’s postseason hockey games this weekend.
No. 1 ranked Cornell is hosting Mercyhurst on its Ithaca, New York, campus while Princeton travels to Northeastern in the women’s NCAA quarterfinals on Saturday. The four games are all at campus sites.
The Cornell men, also ranked No. 1, are hosting a best-of-three ECAC quarterfinal against Princeton the same weekend. Harvard and Yale are each playing quarterfinal series on the road.
The school said it was keeping fans out in line with the league’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak and they will be available to stream online.
NCAA championships in wrestling, gymnastics, indoor track and field, and swimming and diving are currently scheduled for non-Ivy locations.
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