The University of Connecticut on Wednesday became the first school in college football’s top division to cancel its 2020 season amid the novel 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 in a statement. “The safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk.”

Also on Wednesday, NCAA Division III leadership announced it had canceled all of its fall sports championships. Many schools at that level had already determined they would not play fall sports, including football.

The 2020 season was to be the first as an college football independent for Connecticut, which played its final season in the American Athletic Conference in 2019 (most of its other sports were slated to begin play in the Big East — a conference that does not sponsor football — this academic year). Games against Illinois, Indiana, Maine and Mississippi already had been canceled by the pandemic, leaving the program with few options to replace them. Plus, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said athletes would not be exempt from state requirements that travelers to hotspot states quarantine upon return, putting games at Virginia and North Carolina in doubt.

Connecticut was one of the few programs in the country to complete its spring practices before the pandemic began in the United States, starting the sessions in early February. The team had been on campus since early last month without any positive coronavirus tests, the school announced.

The Huskies’ players will remain enrolled in school and will not be tolled a year of NCAA eligibility.

“As a team we are in full support of the decision to not compete in 2020,” Connecticut’s football players said as a group in the statement. “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.”

Other college football independents, such as Army and BYU, are scrambling to fill their schedules. Army’s home game against Oklahoma on Sept. 26 was canceled after the Big 12 announced that its teams would be limited to one nonconference home game this season. BYU has seen six of its planned 12 games canceled.

Notre Dame, the nation’s most prominent independent that in previous years had a football scheduling agreement with the ACC, will play a full ACC schedule this season. The ACC has announced that its teams will play a 10-game conference schedule plus one nonconference game that must be played in each school’s home state.

Teams in the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 will play conference-only schedules this season.

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