Once again, the Ivy League has sent a loud and clear message regarding COVID-19 to the college community. The Ivy League presidents have cancelled all intercollegiate sports until at least January, becoming the first Division I conference to officially suspend its fall semester football schedule in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The league has reserved its decision on the potential impact of the pandemic on winter and spring sports schedules, except it has confirmed that no intercollegiate sports activity would begin until at least January 1, 2021. Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris stated that even though a decision on potentially moving fall sports to the spring has not been made, “there won’t be basketball games or hockey games or other sports in the fall.” This delayed start date would essentially eliminate the non-conference schedule for all Ivy League men’s and women’s basketball programs even if health and safety concerns regarding COVID-19 are reduced and the sports programs are able to resume.

The league’s announcement of the fall sports cancellation follows its controversial decision on March 10th to become the first NCAA conference to cancel its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Despite broad criticism for overreacting from multiple professional leagues and other college conferences for its preemptive decision, within days

the Ivy League and its Executive Director Harris were lauded for her decision to exercise extreme caution to protect the league’s student-athletes from COVID-19.

Approximately two days after the Ivy League’s decision all professional sports leagues were shut down following the COVID-19 diagnosis of NBA player Rudy Gobert and the NCAA was forced to cancel the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments.

The decision to cancel fall sports followed weeks of discussion in an effort to make a potential schedule of competition work for all of the Ivy League schools and their student-athletes.. Following Harvard, Yale and Princeton’s decision to limit the number of undergraduate students on campus for the fall semester, it made the opportunity to continue this fall’s athletic schedules more impractical. Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber commented that

“athletics is part of the broader educational mission and not treated differently from the rest of the academic enterprise. Our athletes are first and foremost students.”

Executive Director Harris added that the league had considered numerous options to try and make athletic competition work, but school restrictions and state rules on the size of gathering prevailed, resulting in this “sad decision.”

While this announcement may not be followed by similar announcements from larger Power 5 football conferences, other mid-major conferences may follow the Ivy League’s lead as the Coronavirus continues to spike across the country.

Jackson Lewis’ Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on collegiate and professional sports. Please feel free to reach out to any member of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group with questions.

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Photo of Gregg E. Clifton Gregg E. Clifton

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in…

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world. He has advised numerous professional franchises on general labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. He serves as lead counsel for several Major League Baseball teams in their salary arbitration matters and has represented NCAA and NAIA collegiate clients regarding rules compliance, investigatory matters and in disciplinary hearings. In addition, he has handled Title IX investigations and compliance issues for NCAA and NAIA member institutions. Mr. Clifton has also worked extensively in the area of agent regulation and enforcement in professional and college sports and regularly provides counsel on issues relating to NCAA and NAIA amateurism issues and athlete eligibility questions. He has also served as an expert witness in matters involving sports agents’ work and responsibilities, as well as athlete compensation issues.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, he spent six years as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Team Sports for Gaylord Sports Management. He also served as President of the Athlete and Entertainment Division for famed sports attorney Bob Woolf’s firm, Woolf Associates, in Boston.

Mr. Clifton began his career as an Associate at Jackson Lewis where he focused his practice on traditional labor law. He continues to counsel clients in the areas of collective bargaining negotiations, representation cases, arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board matters.

Mr. Clifton frequently serves as an expert speaker to law schools, including Harvard University, Boston College, Hofstra University and Arizona State University, and bar associations regarding sports law issues, including agent regulation and salary arbitration. He is also often cited as an expert source in national news media for his commentary and opinion on legal issues in sports.