BY STEVE BENNETT
Lance Blass was as ready as he has ever been to start a football season. The senior at Cornell University, who saw the field as a freshman on special teams, worked his way into the lineup at middle linebacker, making an impact anyway possible.
When the Ivy League announced Wednesday it will not play football in the fall, or any fall sports for that matter, Blass can only hope the league will figure out a way to have some form of a season in the spring of 2021.
The Ivy League became the first NCAA Division I conference to announce it will not have a traditional football season. The decision impacts not only Blass, but former Dallas offensive lineman Josh Balara, who is set to enroll at Dartmouth College for his freshman year in August. Yale head coach Tony Reno began his coaching career at King’s College in 1997 as a defensive assistant and has been in charge of the Bulldogs since 2012.
Blass said he sat through a series of virtual meetings not long after the announcement was made by the eight Ivy League Council of Presidents.
“The athletic director came on and let us know the fall championship season for fall athletics is postponed,” Blass said Wednesday night. “It is not happening in the fall, and no decision has been made when or if it will happen in 2021. We’re not sure of the details. There are a lot of things as far as players using the facilities and whether or not we will be allowed to use them.”
In a press release, the Ivy League said with the safety and well-being of students as its highest priority, institutions are implementing campus-wide policies including restrictions on student and staff travel, requirements for social distancing, limits on group gatherings and regulations for visitors to campus. Athletics is also expected to operate within campus policies making it impossible for teams in the conference to participate in intercollegiate athletics prior to the end of the fall semester.
“Our whole team used to get physicals at the same time,” Blass said. “Now that won’t be possible, it makes it more difficult to start that process. I believe every student and staff must get (COVID-19) tested. It has to be a certain number of days before you leave. They suggest you get tested at home before you return to campus. There are going to be some classes held in person. There are a lot of things we are unsure of.”
Word began to leak last week that the conference was looking into moving its football season to the spring of 2021. But Wednesday, the news turned dour as speculation grew of the possibility football might not even be played at all.
“It definitely makes you feel a certain way,” Blass said. “You are involved in what is becoming a high profile situation. The Ivy League made it clear it was going to be first to come out with an announcement. Since I have been here I have really began to understand the impact of the Ivy League. We may not be the marquee football conference, but it’s just the fact the Ivy League carries its own weight. You get to understand they usually set the bar for a lot of things.”
Enrolled in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Blass is on target to graduate in the spring of 2021. The Ivy League does not offer a redshirt season with an exception for medical purposes. If the conference offers football of some sort in the spring he would still have the option to play and still graduate on time.
For Balara, it will be a strange without football in the fall. But at the same time, he will get to adjust to what college life is all about, especially if the team will be able to have some form of workouts once they arrive on campus.
“It will be a tough adjustment, especially without football,” Balara said. “This will be my first fall not playing football since second grade. I think it will work out in the long run. It will give me more time to train and get better.”
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Caitlin Heaney West is the content editor for Access NEPA and oversees the Early Access blog in addition to working as a copy editor and staff writer for The Times-Tribune. An award-winning journalist, she is a summa cum laude graduate of Shippensburg University and also earned a master’s degree from Marywood University. Caitlin joined the Times-Shamrock family in 2009 and lives in Scranton. Contact: email@example.com; 570-348-9100 x5107; or @cheaneywest