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Penn left hanging as Ivy League cancels postseason tournament

03/10/2020, 11:45am EDT
By Josh Verlin

Steve Donahue (above) and Penn got the shocking news Tuesday that the Ivy League was cancelling its postseason tournament. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Penn’s late-season rally looked like it gave the the Quakers a chance to play two games for the Ivy League Championship.

Instead, the Quakers’ season is almost certainly over. The Ivy League announced Tuesday that both the men’s and women’s postseason tournaments, which were scheduled to be played this upcoming weekend at Harvard University, will both be cancelled due to fears over the spreading of the coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Penn's players found out five minutes before an 11 AM hoops practice, then sat around for "close to an hour" and vented their feelings, according to senior guard Ryan Betley.

“I just think we’re frustrated," he said. "And being a senior, especially seeing my two good friends and teammates for four years, Dev [Goodman] and AJ [Brodeur], go out that way. We earned a spot to compete for an Ivy championship, and we got it taken away from us.

"I’m no expert, and maybe we’ll look back and say this was the right call to make," the Downingtown West grad added. "But it’s just extremely frustrating, there’s three teams with great senior classes that aren’t going to get to compete for a championship that they earned the right to compete for, and that’s the biggest thing."

“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 in a press release. “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 Ivy League also announced that it was implementing what it called “highly-restrictive, in-venue spectator limitations for all other upcoming campus athletics events,” and that it was cancelling “all out-of-season practices and competitions.”

“Following a number of league-wide discussions throughout the last several weeks, we have decided to exercise caution in the interest of student-athletes, fans and the general community,” Harris said.

The Ivy League’s decision is the most recent move by sports teams and leagues at various levels as fears continue to grow over the coronavirus, which was first identified in late 2019 and has spread all over the world.

Johns Hopkins University and Amherst College both hosted Division III NCAA Tournament games this past weekend in empty gymnasiums, while Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League all announced this week they would be suspending opening locker room privileges for media to try and avoid close contact. 

Now the Ivy League has gone a step further, cancelling its tournament entirely. Though the reasons might be understandable, it’s still a crushing blow to Penn, Harvard, and Princeton, all of whom had hoped to compete with regular-season champs Yale in the league’s fourth-ever postseason tournament.

Yale will instead get an automatic bid to the Division I NCAA Tournament, which as of March 10 is still on as scheduled with no alterations.

The league’s release did not say why the league chose to eliminate its postseason tournament entirely instead of playing in front of a reduced or limited crowd. However, Harvard University announced Tuesday that it will transition to online-only courses starting March 23, when the school returns from spring break.

The Quakers (16-11, 8-6) were sitting on the outside of the postseason picture after a three-point loss at Yale on Feb. 28, but rallied to beat Brown, Cornell and Columbia to grab the final spot in the four-team playoff. They would have played the Bulldogs (23-7, 11-3) this upcoming Saturday in the league semifinals. 

Barring an invitation to the CBI or CIT, it’s an all-too-sudden end to the careers of a terrific Penn senior class, led by Brodeur. The Northfield Mt. Hermon product became Penn’s all-time leading scorer in the season finale against Columbia, also setting the program’s blocks record and recording its first-ever triple double in a fitting final performance. 

Brodeur, Penn’s leader in points (17.3), rebounds (8.9) and assists (5.2) per game, finishes his career with 1,832 points, 928 rebounds, 390 assists and 196 blocks.

Goodman, a point guard out of Germantown Academy, finished two points shy of 1,000 after averaging 13.6 ppg as a senior. Ryan Betley, who will do a grad transfer next year due to graduation regulations –– he got his degree in four years, and Penn doesn’t allow grad students to play –– averaged 11.6 ppg this season to finish with 944 for his career. 

Even though he might get a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament next year, that was no consolation for the opportunity lost to get it done in the Red & Blue.

"Obviously there’s sadness that we’re never going to play in a Penn uniform again," he said. "It’s pretty heartbreaking.”


Updated at 3:15 PM EST

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