The University of Massachusetts football program has canceled its fall 2020 season, electing to join the growing number of schools and conferences that will put football on hold until spring 2021 at the earliest.
"After consulting with university, state and public health officials, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 UMass football season," athletic director Ryan Bamford said. "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."
The school becomes the third individual institution to cancel efforts to play football in the fall, joining UConn and Old Dominion. The MAC and the Mountain West decided in the last week to postpone all fall sports as a conference, bringing the total number of FBS schools opting out of the fall football season up to 27 as of the UMass news. The Big Ten and the Pac-12 are in the midst of discussions regarding their fall sports this week, while the SEC and the ACC are among the leagues continuing their efforts to prepare for an adjusted fall schedule.
UMass, like fellow independent UConn which canceled its fall season earlier this month, faced not only the concerns of health and safety competing in the midst of a pandemic but also scheduling difficulties as an FBS independent. Games from the 2020 schedule against Albany (FCS Colonial Athletic Association), New Mexico (Mountain West) and Akron (MAC) were all postponed upon the decisions by those conferences to not hold football in the fall.
"I am absolutely heartbroken for our players, our former players, our alumni and our UMass Football community," head coach Walt Bell said. "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."
The Minutemen went 1-11 in Year 1 with new head coach Walt Bell in 2019.