The University of Connecticut announced Thursday its upcoming football season is canceled, making the Huskies the first football bowl subdivision program to call off the 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,” director of athletics David Bendedict said in a statement. “The safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk.”
Student-athletes returned to campus in July after completing a full spring offseason program that began on Feb. 4. No student-athletes tested positive for coronavirus since returning to campus, the school said in a statement.
As for the fall season, games against Illinois, Indiana, Maine, and Mississippi had already been canceled by those schools’ conferences. The team noted that “uncertainty surrounded” games against North Carolina and Virginia.
“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,” UConn coach Randy Edsall said in a statement. “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.”
UConn players will retain a year of eligibility and remain enrolled in virtual or in-person classes while continuing to have access to team facilities. Members of the team also issued a statement:
“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.”
Connecticut, which left the American Athletic Conference for the Big East in July, intended to compete as an independent in football. The Big East canceled non-conference games for fall sports in July, and UConn said it would work with the conference to determine the path forward for its other programs.
The athletic department will contact season ticket holders in the coming days and will offer full refunds if requested.