Officials with the University of Connecticut’s Athletics Department announced the cancellation Wednesday of the school’s 2020-2021 football season due to the threat posed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement made the UConn Huskies the first team in the NCAA’s Division I Football Bowl Subdivision to cancel its season, according to the Harford Courant.
"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," David Benedict, UConn's director of athletics, said Wednesday. "The safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk."
UConn had been scheduled to play its first season as an independent team after leaving the American Athletic Conference. The Huskies had already been taken off the schedules of Illinois, Indiana, Maine and Mississippi by those schools, and games against North Carolina and Virginia remained uncertain, UConn officials said. Many of the Power Five conferences are playing league-only games this season.
"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."
The UConn Huskies began spring practice Feb. 4 and became one of few teams to complete a full spring schedule. Football players have been on campus since early July and none have tested positive thus far for COVID-19, officials said.
Team members will remain enrolled in classes as full-time students at UConn and will have access facilities and support services "in accordance with NCAA rules, ensuring that student-athletes remain on track academically and developmentally," according to school officials.
In a statement released by UConn, football players said they fully supported the decision to pause competition due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have many health concerns and not enough is known about the potential long term effects of contracting COVID-19,” the statement said. “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.”
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont had expressed reluctance to allow the football team to travel to any state with a high virus infection rate. He said the team would be subject to the state's 14-day quarantine rule upon its return to Storrs from away games.
As of Tuesday, the last date for which data was available, more than 50,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported across Connecticut, resulting in 4,437 deaths, according to health officials.
The United States leads the world with the most coronavirus cases and the highest death toll. Since the start of the pandemic, officials have confirmed more than 4.7 million infections and reported more than 156,000 deaths nationwide, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
As of Tuesday, more than 18.5 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide and more than 701,000 people have died of the viral infection, according to Johns Hopkins.
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