The Ivy League canceled its upcoming Ivy Madness conference tournament for both men’s and women’s basketball due to escalating concerns of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Ivy League regular season champions will earn the automatic bid to March Madness. Yale (23-7) secures the men’s basketball automatic bid, while Princeton (26-1) will represent the Ivy League in the women’s March Madness tournament.

Ivy League Madness Canceled Tournament Yale Princeton Coronavirus
The Ivy League becomes the first Division I conference to cancel its postseason basketball tournament due to coronavirus. (Image: Penn Athletics)

Lavietes Pavilion, located on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was scheduled to host this year’s Ivy League conference tournament starting Friday.

The Ivy League became the first NCAA Division I conference to cancel its tournament.

“With the health of students as well as the campus and the general community in mind, The decision has been 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,” the Ivy League said in a statement.

“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,” said Robin Hill, the Ivy League’s executive director.

The Ivy League is also restricting all campus-wide sporting events.

“Effective immediately, the Ivy League is also implementing highly restrictive in-venue spectator limitations for all other upcoming campus athletics events,” the Ivy League said.

The decision to cancel Ivy Madness came shortly after Harvard’s president declared all classes would move online for the remainder of the academic year.

Yale and Princeton Advance

The Ivy League will send Yale, the regular-season champions, to March Madness. Yale secured the men’s title with a 11-3 regular-season record. Princeton won the women’s title with a 14-0 clip.

The women’s tournament was originally scheduled to commence on Friday with a championship game set for Saturday. Princeton held the #1 seed and scheduled to face #4 Columbia. The other side of the bracket included #2 Penn and #3 Yale. The Princeton women went a perfect 14-0 in the regular season this year. The Lady Tigers have a 22-game winning streak on the line heading into March Madness. Princeton lost only one game this season with a 2-point heartbreaker to Iowa.

The Ivy League scheduled the men’s tournament to start on Saturday with a champion declared on Sunday. Yale earned the #1 seed and set to play #4 Penn. The other side of the men’s bracket featured #2 Harvard (21-8) and #3 Princeton.

“Didn’t see it coming,” said Penn men’s basketball coach Steve Donahue. “To pull this from our kids, it’s the most horrific thing I’ve dealt with as a coach.”

Harvard and Yale were expected to meet in the Ivy Madness finale for the second season in a row before the coronavirus cancellation. Harvard beat Yale twice this year, and the Crimson were seeking a rare, three-game sweep of their Ancient Eight rivals.

“It’s a bittersweet moment for us,” said Yale spokesman Mike Gambardella. “We’re happy our men will get an automatic bid, but disappointed that our women won’t be able to compete for a championship.”

Ivy Madness’ Brief History

The Ivy League became one of the last basketball conferences to host a conference tournament. Created in 2017, the winner of the tournament advances to March Madness with the league’s one, automatic berth.

Unlike other conferences in which all teams qualify for a shot at a trip to March Madness, the Ivy League restricts eligibility. Only the top-four teams in the conference earn a spot in Ivy Madness.

The Ivy League conference tournament quickly acquired the “Ivy Madness” moniker.

Last season was the first time in which the Ivy League regular-season champion did not advance to March Madness. With the #2 seed last season, Yale defeated top-seeded Harvard 97-85 in the championship game.

For the second season in a row, Yale will represent the Ivy League in March Madness.

Coronavirus Madness

Coronavirus has impacted international sporting events since February with widespread cancellations and postponements. Among the events already — or likely to be canceled — are:

Will Coronavirus cancel March Madness after the Ivy League canceled Ivy Madness? Probably not, as there’s way too much money involved to cancel the games outright. If the situation worsens in the next week or so, the NCAA could prohibit spectators.

As the showbiz mantra says, “The show must go on.” Besides, unlike the canceled and rescheduled Coachella music festival, you can’t play March Madness in October.