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Volume 26 No. 229
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Ivy League's Fall Sports Cancellation Could Create Domino Effect

The eight Ivy League football programs made a combined $30.1M in revenue last year
Photo: getty images
The eight Ivy League football programs made a combined $30.1M in revenue last year
Photo: getty images
The eight Ivy League football programs made a combined $30.1M in revenue last year
Photo: getty images

The Ivy League's decision to cancel fall sports programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic "could have a domino effect [on] the rest of college sports," according to Richard Thompson of the BOSTON HERALD. The Ivy League was "out ahead of the rest of the country back in March when the pandemic was just beginning to resonate." It was the first conference in the country to "pull the plug on its men's and women's basketball tournaments." The Ivy League was "chastised at the time for overreacting, but the rest of college sports shut down a week later and the pro sports leagues weren't far behind." Now for the "second time in the age of coronavirus, the Ivy League was the first to break ranks and other conferences are sure to follow its lead" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/9). In Philadelphia, Mike Jensen notes the Ivy League ADs are "seeking clarification from Ivy presidents about whether there can be games or other competitions in between the fall and spring semesters" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/9).

TREND SETTER: ESPN.com's Heather Dinich wondered if the Ivy League's decision will "become a trend at the FBS level or will it be an outlier made by a league without the same structures and incentives as big-time college football?" College football's "power brokers insist it's the latter ... for now." West Virginia AD Shane Lyons, who also is Chair of the NCAA D-I Football Oversight Committee, said, "We all pay attention to it, just to see what's out there, but I think their model is a little different than our model when it comes to football." Dinich noted Lyons' statement "reflects the general sentiment" of ADs and conference commissioners. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said, "I don't think it's going to have much bearing on what we do. Different part of the country, different approach to college sports and college football." Dinich wrote there is "no question the Ivy League could -- and probably will -- influence other FCS leagues as they grapple with the costs of repeatedly testing student-athletes for the coronavirus." At least in the "short term, though, it's possible the Ivy League's decision resonates more with its peers than the FBS conferences" (ESPN.com, 7/8). In New Haven, Jim Fuller notes the financial workings of FBS programs and "especially those in the Power-5 conferences could make those conferences less likely to cancel the fall sports season" (NEW HAVEN REGISTER, 7/9).

OPPOSITE ENDS OF THE SPECTRUM: THE ATHLETIC's David Ubben wrote under the header, "The Ivy League Forgoing Fall Sports Won't Mean Much For The Power 5." Ubben: "Don't expect the fallout to be as unanimous or swift among the power conferences. Especially not in the SEC." Following the money is a "good philosophy for analyzing any decision, and the Ivies' decision is the latest example." The Ivy League "doesn't offer its players scholarships to play football," while SEC schools averaged more than $1.3M in "recruiting expenditures alone" during FY '18. The eight Ivy League football programs made a combined $30.1M in revenue last year, with Columbia earning the most at $5M. Sixteen FBS coaches, including five in the SEC, "make at least" $5M in personal salary (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/8). SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said of the announcement by the Ivy League and how it could influence his decision on fall sports, “I don’t think the announcement today is any inflexion point for decision-making. Now, when you look at what’s happening, those are the real inflection points for us. I want to be optimistic, but the reality is publicly we have to discipline ourselves to remain healthy as a culture” (“Freddie and Fitzsimmons,” ESPN Radio, 7/8). In Tampa, Matt Baker wonders, "Will major programs follow the Ivy's lead again?" Baker: "Probably not. At least not yet." Football at Clemson and LSU is "not like football at Princeton." Columbia "can skip a season without missing much." If SEC schools did so, jobs "will be lost in what will already be a brutal fiscal year." The economic realities "shouldn't be the only factor major programs and leagues consider, but they can't ignore them, either" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/9).

DECISION STARTS UP TOP: ESPN’s Rece Davis said, "No doubt there will be some presidents who will be cognizant of the fact that they could be viewed as not caring as much about the academic mission as the athletic one if they don't follow suit with the Ivy League." ESPN’s Dinich: "You better believe that university presidents at every level are going to be paying attention to what the president at Harvard has to say about it and as powerful as the power five commissioners are, those university presidents, whether or not campuses are open and students are on campus, are going to be pretty much the key in all of this decision making process" (“Get Up,” ESPN, 7/9).

MORE TO COME? SI.com's Pat Forde wrote the Ivy League's decision shows "where we are in college athletics -- adrift, lacking answers and failing to gain ground on a relentless pandemic." If there is not a "miracle turnaround of our dismal coronavirus testing numbers by Aug. 1, all FBS conferences could join the FCS Ivy League in delaying fall sports to the spring -- and just hoping things work out then." The financial repercussions of a compromised football season "will be awful." Forde: "If we have no football season, the financial repercussions will be far worse." The Ivy League "has now led the way twice in shutting down sports," and now the question becomes, "Are they trend setters again, or outliers?" Football is a "different beast, and the Power 5 won't give up on a fall season easily." But if yesterday is "any indication, the entire college enterprise is hurtling toward a very bad fall after a very bad spring" (SI.com, 7/8). ESPN Radio’s Paul Finebaum said, "It is a dreadful indicator for college football ... (and) it's about time that commissioners and athletic directors and football coaches start dealing with the reality and the reality is that the college football season is slipping away" (“Get Up,” ESPN, 7/9). The PROVIDENCE JOURNAL writes the move "could have ripple effects throughout the big business of college sports" (7/9).

COLUMNISTS CORNER: In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes under the header, "Colleges Should Follow The Ivy League, Again, And Shut Down Sports This Year." Shaughnessy: "It's over for this year, people. The Ivy League just told you so. Listen to them. And give it up for this year." There is "July, August and September madness as our professional sports leagues and mighty college football make plans to resume the games." And "each day we get another bucket of cold-water-reality splashed on our heads" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/9). USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes if "past is prologue, we will soon be hearing that the rest of the college sports world is considering canceling all fall sports." But that is "not going to happen right away." The Power 5 conferences "will take their time before they make such a momentous decision." The "last thing our biggest football schools want to do is lose football -- and the payday football brings -- this fall," so they will "hang on for a while longer." In the end, though, they are "increasingly likely to wind up right where the Ivy League is now" (USA TODAY, 7/9).

COVERAGE FROM AROUND THE LEAGUE: