While great professional and college teams have returned, playing around and through outbursts and stops, the Ivy League has not. Presidents of the league’s member universities announced in July that no sports would be played before January. 1, and in November the break was extended to 1 March. They thus became the first conference to cancel their football and basketball season.
In this way, Ivy League presidents have adhered to a core principle: that athletes are essentially treated as students who do not play sports.
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Thus, in Columbia, where most students have not returned to the Manhattan campus, and in Cornell, which is in its initial phase of welcoming students this semester, the baseball teams have not practiced. In Dartmouth, where the campus will only be open to beginners and seniors in the spring term beginning next month, the baseball team will be almost all beginners and seniors. Princeton’s roster is down to 18 players, with four juniors taking a gap year so they can return next season.
The teams that practice follow the university’s protocols.
At Princeton, this means that pitchers throw bullpen sessions while wearing masks, and players in groups of five who are often determined not by position, but who their roommates are. In Pennsylvania, players have largely had to brave the elements since their usual indoor winter facility – an inflatable dome – was not set up due to ventilation issues.
These are hardly the circumstances John Yurkow, the coach of Penn, imagined almost a year ago.
The Quakers were on their usual trip in hot weather to open the season, and Yurkow had thrown stroke practice before the team’s game against Florida Atlantic. When he got off the field, with the first field about an hour away, an assistant coach came to Yurkow and showed him a message on his cell phone: The season was canceled.
“We had to scramble to get a travel companion of around 40 on another flight,” said Yurkow, who added that his assistant had received the messages about 15 minutes earlier, but wanted him to enjoy a final batting exercise. “It was almost a surreal feeling – like, what exactly happened? The kids were angry at first – you go through these steps, but you think, ‘OK, we’ll be back in the fall and have a normal season.’ “
Little, however, is usually almost 12 months later. And the prospects for a shortened season seem bleak.
“We just keep our fingers crossed,” Yurkow said.