In a statement from the UConn athletic department on Wednesday, the university announced its 2020 football season would be canceled due to COVID-19 safety risks.
In doing so, UConn became the first Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) program of Division I college football to cancel the season outright.
“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,” Athletic Director David Benedict said in the statement. “The safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk.”
According to the statement, members of the team will continue to be full-time students at UConn. They will continue taking classes either virtually or in person, and they will retain access to facilities and support services in accordance with NCAA regulations.
While no member of the football program has tested positive for COVID-19 since the team arrived on campus in early July, it was the concern of keeping the players safe once the rest of the student body and faculty returns to campus in the coming weeks that led to Wednesday’s decision.
“The necessary measures needed to mitigate risk of football student-athletes contracting the coronavirus are not conducive to delivering an optimal experience for our team,” Benedict said in the statement. “Ultimately, the student-athletes would rather preserve their year of eligibility with an eye to competing under more typical circumstances during the 2021 season.”
Head coach Randy Edsall said that the university ultimately listened to what the student-athletes thought and made the decision to accommodate their safety.
“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,” 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.”
Much of UConn’s 2020 schedule was already depleted after other conferences made the decision to cancel or move to a conference-only schedule. UConn, now a college football independent after leaving the American Athletic Conference last month, doesn’t have a conference to comply with, making the decision to play or not completely up to the school itself.
“As a team we are in full support of the decision to not compete in 2020,” the football student-athletes said 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 & 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.”
UConn Athletics will reach out to season ticket holders and other fans in the next few days about refunds, according to the statement.
The statement also said that for the remaining fall sports, UConn will work with the Big East conference to figure out the best solution going forward.
“Among all the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic for the last several months, our top priority has clearly been and will always be ensuring the health and well-being of our student-athletes, staff and fans,” Benedict said in the statement. “With that in mind, we concluded that this action was necessary. Obviously, there are details that need to be addressed but safety was foremost on our minds when making this decision and we know our fans share that same commitment.”