Newly independent for the fall of 2020, the University of Connecticut called off its football season Wednesday, becoming the first Football Bowl Subdivision school to do so amid the coronavirus pandemic.
UConn, which departed the American Athletic Conference to return to the Big East – which does not sponsor football – was left with numerous holes in its schedule as multiple conferences switched to league-only formats for the fall. Games against Illinois, Indiana, Ole Miss and Maine were already lost due to conference schedule shifts, with North Carolina and Virginia also likely to be called off.
“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 a statement. “The safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk.”
Connecticut was one of the hardest-hit states in the early phase of the pandemic, due in large part to its proximity to New York, where many residents work. It has since become a model for slowing the spread of COVID-19, with its 7-day average of cases below 100 since mid-June. That success, however, added additional layers of difficulty for athletics officials hoping to get the Huskies on the field, as Gov. Ned Lamont has restricted travel to and from more than 30 states – instituting self-quarantine requirements for those moving through high-infection areas across the country.
“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 continued. “Ultimately, the student-athletes would rather preserve their year of eligibility with an eye to competing under more typical circumstances during the 2021 season.”
Players came out in support of the decision to call off the season, which will mark the first since 1943 without a Connecticut team taking to the gridiron.