The University of Connecticut athletic department announced Wednesday it won't take part in the 2020 college football season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"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. "The safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk."
The Huskies were scheduled to compete as an independent in 2020 after leaving the American Athletic Conference and joining the Big East in all sports except football. UConn is the first FBS program to cancel its football season amid the pandemic.
"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," head coach Randy 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 athletic department confirmed Huskies football players registered zero positive tests for COVID-19 since returning to campus in early July.
UConn would have likely struggled to fill out its schedule without a conference designation as the focus in major college football has mostly shifted toward conference-only opponents. Games against Illinois, Indiana, Maine and Mississippi had already removed from the Huskies' slate as a result.
The players released a joint statement as part of the school's announcement:
"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 and 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."
The Huskies struggled since they joined the AAC in 2013. They failed to register a winning record over the past seven seasons, including a 6-30 mark since Edsall returned in 2017 for a second stint leading the program.
UConn's announcement noted players will remain full-time students at the school and retain access to team facilities to "remain on track academically and developmentally."
The athletic department said it will "continue to work" with the Big East to determine the fate of its other fall sports.