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Plenty of sports fans go to extreme lengths to support their favorite team, but billionaire Joseph Tsai just took it to another level.
Tsai — a former Yale lacrosse player, the co-founder of Alibaba and owner of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets— offered to front millions of dollars to build an isolated bubble for Ivy League lacrosse teams to compete during the pandemic.
The Brooklyn Nets owner was immediately shot down, but Tsai isn’t the only powerful Ivy alum calling for America’s brainiest schools to get their brawn back on.
Dropping Out to Stay in the Game
The Ivy League scrubbed its fall sports season last July, and by Thanksgiving had also scratched all winter contests.
Other universities, many reliant on lucrative TV contracts and ticket revenue, pressed on. In Division I men’s basketball, for example, 347 of the total 357 teams are competing. The Ivy League represents eight of the 10 schools watching from the sidelines.
Do Not Pass Go: The no-sports-stance has left athletes in eligibility limbo, as the Ivy League typically gives students a four year window of competition. Only last week did the Ivy League issue a one-time pandemic waiver to allow current senior student athletes to play an additional season as graduate students.
But, as described by the Harvard Crimson, many called the move “too little, too late,” and Ivy League teams have been cleaned out by athletes either transferring or taking a gap year. Of the 48 Yale men’s lacrosse players, only 8 remain on the roster.
Tsai’s Field of Dreams Is Just A Dream
Standing along Tsai is a lineup of prominent alums calling on the Ivy League to get sports back on the menu.
There’s Kansas City Chiefs president Mark Donovan, a former Brown football player; George Pyne, fellow Brown footballer and chief executive of Bruin Sports Capital; and Mike Rabil, Dartmouth football alum and co-founder of the Premier Lacrosse League.
Rabil and Tsai drew up blueprints for a three-week lacrosse tournament at a bubble site, offering up $5 million out of their own pockets. But that plan was hastily turned down by the Ivy League Council of Presidents.
The Takeaway: When it comes to academics, many will argue there is no competing with the Ivy League. This year, even in athletics there will be no competing with them. Literally.