UConn won’t be playing football in 2020.
The school, which was facing an independent schedule this fall after leaving the American Athletic Conference, announced that it had canceled the 2020 football season Wednesday morning. UConn is the first top-level college football program to announce that it’s not playing football this year as the coronavirus pandemic makes playing a regular football season nearly impossible this 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,” 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.”
UConn left the AAC for the Big East over the summer. But the Big East does not play football at the FBS level, so UConn football was set to be an independent like Notre Dame, Army and others.
Being an independent means that schools have to fill out every game on their schedules vs. having the benefit of eight or nine games against opponents in the same conference and only needing to find a handful of games to fill out the schedule.
UConn accomplished the scheduling task ahead of the season. But the coronavirus pandemic screwed it up. The school had already lost four games off its schedule with Power Five conferences’ announcements that they were going to conference-only schedules because the pandemic continues to rage.
“As a team we are in full support of the decision to not compete in 2020,” a statement attributed to team members said. “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.”
UConn football has been bad
UConn last finished above .500 when Randy Edsall led the team to an 8-5 season and a Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2010. Edsall left for Maryland after that season and UConn hasn’t had a winning season since.
That includes any of the last three years with Edsall back at the helm. UConn has won a combined three games over the past two seasons as it’s been one of the worst programs in college football. UConn has given up at least 475 points across each of the past two seasons and allowed a whopping 50 points per game in 2018.
“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 school said in a statement that players will remain enrolled in classes and be able to work out at the team facilities despite the lack of a football season this year.
But it’s fair to wonder just what the future holds for UConn’s football program. The athletic department’s finances weren’t great before the pandemic and are almost certain to get worse in the coming months. UConn said in June that it was cutting four sports after the upcoming season and said Wednesday that it would be announcing the status of its Big East-aligned sports in the future.
It’s not impossible for UConn’s football program to come back; UAB recently was able to return to Group of Five relevance after it was shut down for a few years. But that comeback was made possible because of a public groundswell of support and a push to make the program good again. That could happen at UConn in 2021 and beyond if the support — both emotionally and financially — is there.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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