The University of Connecticut football team won’t take the field in 2020.
The season also won’t be moved to the spring, as the university in Storrs announced Wednesday that it’s canceling all football during the 2020-21 school year. ESPN reported that UConn is the first Football Bowl Subdivision team to cancel its upcoming season.
“After receiving guidance from state and public health officials and consulting with football student-athletes, we’ve decided that we will not compete on the gridiron this season,” UConn director of athletics David Benedict said in the athletic department’s release. “The safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk.”
The decision was made with support from the players, who will save a year of eligibility.
"As a team we are in full support of the decision to not compete in 2020,” the players wrote in a statement. “We have many health concerns and not enough is known about the potential long term effects of contracting COVID-19. Additionally, we have not had the optimal time to train mentally and physically to be properly prepared to compete this season. We love this game and love competing. We came to campus in the beginning of July knowing there would be challenges presented by the pandemic but it is apparent to us now that these challenges are impossible to overcome."
The Huskies haven’t had any notable issues with COVID-19, as they were able to complete their spring practice schedule and haven’t had any student-athletes test positive since returning to campus in early July. However, their new independent status was going to make it tough to schedule games. After officially leaving the American Athletic Conference on July 1, UConn already had games against Illinois, Indiana, Maine and Mississippi canceled as those schools’ conferences ruled against playing non-conference games.
UConn went 2-10 last year, including 0-8 in the American Athletic Conference. ESPN reported that the university is required to pay the AAC an exit fee of $17 million by 2026. The Huskies are joining the Big East Conference in all sports besides football, men’s and women’s ice hockey and rowing. The Big East is still working through a plan for the fall sports seasons.
UConn’s release said that the football players will remain full-time students, and retain access to facilities and support services.
"We engaged and listened to the concerns of our football student-athletes and feel this is the best decision for their health, safety, and well-being," head coach Randy Edsall said. "Our team is united in this approach and we will use this time to further player development within the program and gear ourselves to the 2021 season."
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The UConn athletic department has had a difficult summer, announcing in June that it was cutting its men’s tennis, men’s swimming and diving, men’s cross country and women’s rowing programs after their 2020-21 seasons.
“While this is a painful decision, it is in the best interest of the long-term viability of UConn and UConn athletics,” UConn president Thomas Katsouleas said in a release that noted the cuts were part of a university directive calling for a 25 percent reduction in institutional support by 2023. “The Division of Athletics recently completed a thorough and comprehensive review of its operation and programs, an inquiry initiated long before the COVID-19 crisis began. For several years, the level of institutional financial support committed to athletics has been growing. Today, we shared some difficult decisions that nonetheless should chart a course towards better financial sustainability at a level of support and sport sponsorship more in line with our peers.”
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