UConn becomes first FBS program to cancel football season due to coronavirus

UConn becomes first FBS program to cancel football season due to coronavirus
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The University of Connecticut on Wednesday announced that it's canceling its 2020 football season because of the coronavirus pandemic, making it the first Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) program to take such a step.

UConn Director of Athletics David Benedict said in a statement that the move was based on "guidance from state and public health officials" and that it came after officials at the school consulted with the players. 

"The safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk," Benedict said. 

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UConn said that the team has been on campus since July and that no player has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, since then. But players voiced concerns about going through with a season this fall amid a public health crisis, 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," Benedict said.  

UConn football coach Randy Edsall added: "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. 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 coronavirus outbreak caused numerous professional sports leagues around the world to postpone their seasons earlier this year. The NCAA canceled the men's and women's basketball tournaments and scrapped spring sports.

In recent weeks, several professional leagues, including the MLB, NHL, NBA and WNBA, have resumed play with a number of health restrictions, including the exclusion of fans. But health concerns have persisted, with MLB's Miami Marlins being forced to pause its season last month after an outbreak on the team. 

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The NCAA football season is slated to begin Aug. 29. However, it remains unclear whether more teams will opt out of the season. A group of players in the Pac-12 threatened to not play this fall if their respective schools did not address their fears about the virus's transmission. 

"We are being asked to play college sports in a pandemic in a system without enforced health and safety standards, and without transparency about COVID cases on our teams, the risks to ourselves, our families, and our communities," 13 players said in a letter published on The Players Tribune.

The Big Ten announced Wednesday that schools in its conference will have a 10-game, conference-only schedule this year due to the pandemic. The conference said that the shortened season would begin on Sept. 5. The SEC is also reportedly planning for a conference-only season.