UMass cancels football season

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By WEEI 93.7

As college football schools and conferences across the country grapple with the decision of whether they should try to play this season, another local university has opted to not play this fall.

The University of Massachusetts announced Tuesday morning that it has decided to cancel its 2020 football season.

"After consulting with university, state and public health officials, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 UMass football season," said athletic director Ryan Bamford. "We have been in constant communication with university leadership and our football staff since March, with the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff remaining our top priority. The continuing challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic posed too great of a risk, and we reached the conclusion that attempting to play a season would not have placed the members of our program in the safest situation possible."

This comes less than a week after UConn became the first Football Bowl Subdivision school to cancel its season.

Like UConn, UMass is an independent program, which made playing this fall even more difficult since they don't have the option to play a conference-only schedule like many schools may end up doing. The Minutemen had already had a few games canceled or postponed, with more likely on the way.

The biggest independent program, Notre Dame, was able to reach a deal with the ACC to play an ACC-heavy schedule this season, but UConn and UMass obviously don't have that kind of leverage.

"I am absolutely heartbroken for our players, our former players, our alumni and our UMass Football community," said UMass football head coach Walt Bell. "Our job as coaches and mentors is to provide opportunities for our players, and do everything in our power to not take them away. Today's news was devastating, but we will be resilient and prepared to be our best when our best is required. "I would like to give an unbelievable amount of gratitude to our medical professionals, our administration, our campus, our athletic training staff and our operations staff for creating one of the safest environments in college football," Bell said. "The testing, the protocols, the risk mitigation, and the execution have been incredible."

Bamford added that the school hopes to be able to play a competitive schedule for its fall sports during the spring 2021 semester. There remains a possibility that the entire college football season could be moved to the spring, though that would obviously create logistical questions as it relates to both the 2021 college football season and the 2021 NFL Draft process for players with an NFL future.