Harvard Athletics Cancels Games As Coronavirus Spreads


As coronavirus concerns spoil plans for events across Harvard’s campus, Harvard Athletics will require many student-athletes to sit out from trips and tournaments.

As a result of the virus, Harvard will no longer host the Ivy League basketball tournament, which was scheduled for this weekend but canceled Tuesday morning. Harvard Athletics has also prohibited air travel for varsity teams, preventing several teams from going on their spring break trips. The Ivy League has not canceled conference competitions and training for the upcoming spring season, though it has imposed restrictions on attendance.

Ivy League Executive Director Robin J. Harris said in a Tuesday interview that the league considered several scenarios before settling on the decision to cancel the tournament. She said the presidents of the eight Ivy League institutions — including University President Lawrence S. Bacow — made the decision in a conference call at 7:30 a.m. that morning.

Harris said the leaders of the eight schools put thought into contingency plans for the tournament.


“That is exactly who devoted hours to discussing and weighing all the options and ultimately made the very difficult decision to cancel the tournament in the interest of the health and safety of our fans, our students, and the general community at large, given the outbreak that’s occurring,” Harris said.

As a result of the tournament’s cancelation, the number one seeds in the men’s and women’s conferences will automatically advance to the NCAA National Tournament. Harvard men’s basketball, which finished its season in second place, will not have the opportunity to compete for a berth in the tournament. Instead, Yale University will represent the Ivy League. Harvard women’s basketball did not qualify for the conference tournament, which invites the top four teams.

Harvard men’s basketball Head Coach Tommy Amaker wrote that he supports the decision to cancel the tournament in a statement published on Twitter Tuesday evening.

Harvard men’s basketball player Bryce L. Aiken ’20, however, took to Twitter to condemn the league’s decision Tuesday morning.

“Horrible, horrible, horrible decision and total disregard for the players and teams that have put their hearts into this season,” Aiken wrote. “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!”

A petition circulated online Tuesday demanding that the league reinstate the tournament. The petition, which has earned over 8,000 signatures, criticized the league for canceling the event while letting other sports competitions proceed.

Responding to the petition, Harris noted that regular league competitions are much smaller than the conference tournament, which would have brought eight teams to Harvard’s campus.

She also addressed precautions the league is taking as the spring sports season moves along.

“The spring sports are moving forward with very limited attendance, no general spectators or fans, only a limited number of guests of team members and essential personnel,” she said.

Harvard Senior Associate Director of Athletics Nathan Fry wrote in an emailed statement Monday that the department has prohibited air travel for all of Harvard’s varsity sports teams until April 30.

As a result, the department canceled nine varsity teams’ spring break trips, including the softball team’s.

Harvard softball player Morgan T. Melito ’21 said Harvard student-athletes who play a spring sport are currently “in a holding pattern.”

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana asked College students in a Tuesday email to leave campus by Sunday evening. Melito said Athletics has not yet indicated how that University-wide policy will impact athletes whose season has not been canceled by the Ivy League. In the meantime, Melito said she and her teammates will continue to train.

“We had practice today,” she said. “We got dressed and went out to have practice and just made the most of it.”

In his statement, Fry wrote that Athletics will continue to monitor the situation and update its policies.

“The overall health and well-being of students, staff and fans are our highest priority at this time,” Fry wrote. “We continue to work with University officials frequently to review, update, and communicate plans. This is an extremely fluid situation, and all guidelines are subject to change as events change.”

—Staff writer Ema R. Schumer can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @emaschumer.