The University of Connecticut Department of Athletics today announced that its football program will cancel all competition for the 2020-21 school year.
“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 Benedict said. “The safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk.”
Members of the team will remain enrolled in classes, either virtually or in person, as full-time students at UConn. The team members will also retain access to facilities and support services in accordance with NCAA rules, ensuring that student-athletes remain on track academically and developmentally.
While the Huskies began spring practice on February 4 and were one of the only teams in the country to complete a full spring schedule, the opportunities to condition and train as a team have been limited in recent months. The team has been on campus since early July with zero student-athletes testing positive for COVID-19.
This season’s games against Illinois, Indiana, Maine and Mississippi have already been taken off the schedule by those schools’ respective conferences and uncertainty surrounded the contests against North Carolina and Virginia.
“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.”
Head football coach Randy Edsall concurred. “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.”
The football student-athletes offered their thoughts in 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.”
“I am supportive of this decision and know that it was made in conjunction with and in the best interest of our football student-athletes, University President Thomas Katsouleas said. “These young men love competing for UConn and our fans love cheering for them on Saturdays. But the associated health risks are too much to overcome and I agree this is the best course of action.”
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.
“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.”