UConn, which last month officially left the American Athletic Conference, announced Wednesday that it is suspending its football program for the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
UConn, which went 2-10 in its final season in the AAC, is the first FBS program to suspend its football team because of the pandemic. The Huskies were expected to play as an independent this season.
Words Of The Athletic Director And Coach
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 athletic director David Benedict said in a news release. “The safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk.”
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 continued. “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.”
Huskies football coach Randy Edsall said he consulted his players before the university made its decision.
“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 in the news release. “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.”
What’s The Fate Of The Players?
The university said members of the football team will remain enrolled in classes, either virtually or in person, and would have access to facilities and support services to ensure they remain on track academically.
UConn officials said no student-athletes have tested positive for the coronavirus since early July.
“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. “Ultimately, the student-athletes would rather preserve their year of eligibility with an eye to competing under more typical circumstances during the 2021 season.”
“We’ve done the things necessary to put ourselves in a position to be able to play this season…but as we continued through this process it became evident that we weren’t going to be able to do that,” added Edsall.
Words Of The Players
Four of the games on UConn’s schedule — road games at Illinois and Ole Miss and home games against Indiana and FCS foe Maine — were canceled because of scheduling decisions by those teams’ leagues. Games at Virginia and North Carolina were also in question.
UConn officials said the team’s football players drove the decision. In a statement released through the university, the players said they did so in part because “not enough is known about the potential long-term effects of contracting” the virus.
In a statement released by the school, UConn’s players said, “As a team we are in full support of the decision to not compete in 2020. 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 be reaching out to season ticket holders and supporters in the coming days to further explain options and provide individualized solutions as needed including full refunds when requested. Regarding the status of other fall sports, UConn will continue to work with the BIG EAST to chart the best path forward.
What Are The Other Unis Doing?
The University of Connecticut canceled its football season. More college athletes around the country opted out from playing. Even the publication of the Big Ten football schedule on Wednesday came with the dispiriting qualifier that not one game might actually be played, and Maryland said it expected to begin its season without fans at Maryland Stadium.
Then the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Divisions II and III canceled championships in fall sports. Louisville, which plays in Division I, said it had suspended athletic activities in field hockey, volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer after 29 players tested positive for the virus. And the College Football Playoff said it would delay the release of its all-important final rankings until close to Christmas.
Taken together, Wednesday’s announcements again starkly demonstrated the newly persistent precariousness of college sports, an industry that has seen its plans — and its revised plans — upended throughout the pandemic.