The Ivy League’s representatives in the NCAA Tournament will get an extra week off this season.
The Ivy League Presidents announced Tuesday that the men’s and women’s conference basketball tournaments scheduled for this week in Cambridge, Mass., have been cancelled due to concerns about coronavirus and students’ health.
“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. “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.”
The coronavirus is also impacting the Big West Conference and Mid-American Conference tournaments. Both conferences announced Tuesday that their men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will go on as scheduled, but will be closed to the general public.
All three press releases said that tickets will be refunded in full. The Ivy League said the decision to cancel the tournaments was “made in accordance with the guidance of public health and medical professionals to discourage and limit large gatherings on campuses in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.”
Rather than the conference tournament winner automatically advancing to the NCAA Tournament, the Princeton women and Yale men will each receive a berth after winning the regular-season title. The four-team Ivy League tournaments were scheduled to be two days each, with the women’s tournament planned for Friday and Saturday, and the men’s tournament for Saturday and Sunday.
Ivy League players expressed their displeasure in not being able to compete for a shot at the NCAA Tournament, starting a petition called “Reinstate the Ivy League Tournament” on change.org.
“The hypocrisy of our Ivy League Presidents is baffling and alarming,” says the petition, which had 9,550 signatures as of Wednesday morning. “We are disappointed and disheartened that they would discriminate against one sport and allow the others to continue to compete.
“Every single team in this league devotes their entire year to reaching this level of competition. We feel the decision to cancel the tournament was made without enough serious consideration for the student athletes and the investments that have been made up to this point in our season.”
Bryce Aiken, a senior who is reportedly transferring from Harvard after playing just seven games this season due to an injury, tweeted “Horrible, horrible, horrible decision and total disregard for the players and teams that have put their hearts into this season. This is wrong on so many levels and the @IvyLeague should do its due diligence to find a better solution. Everyone knows the risks of playing!”
The Ivy League also announced that it’s implementing “highly-respective, in-venue spectator limitations for all other upcoming campus athletics events” and “canceling all out-of-season practices and competitions.”
The Big West women’s tournament started Tuesday at the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State University, while the men’s tournament will be held Thursday through Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim. The women’s semifinals and championship will be held at the Honda Center on Friday and Saturday.
“The Big West Board of Directors, comprised of the chief executive officers of the nine member universities, strongly feel that this is a prudent way to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus while being sensitive to our student-athletes who have pointed towards playing in the tournament all season,” Big West Commissioner Dennis Farrell said.
Fans attended the first round of the MAC tournaments on Monday, when the games were held on campus. The final three rounds of each tournament will be held at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio from Wednesday through Saturday.
“The safety of all is our greatest concern,” Mid-American Conference Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher said. “Since January, I have stated that any decision would follow the advice of state governmental officials and medical professionals. Following the feedback we received today we have taken this action which is in alignment with the recommendation of Governor DeWine.”
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said Tuesday that “For indoor events, we are asking for no events with spectators other than the athletes, parents, and others essential to the game.”
That could have an impact on the NCAA Tournament, as the “First Four” games are scheduled to be held in Dayton on March 17-18. First-round games are scheduled to be held at the Rocket Mortgage Center on March 20 and March 22.