After Swimming Cut, UConn Is First FBS School To Cancel Football Amid Pandemic

The University of Connecticut announced this week that it will be suspending its football program for the 2020-2021 school year amid the coronavirus pandemic – the first football program in the NCAA’s highest level (FBS) to do so.

Last month, UConn officially cut its men’s swimming & diving program along with three more sports (men’s tennis, men’s cross country and women’s rowing). The move came after reports that the school would need to cut $10 million from its budget over the next three years due to the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, the school has also suspended its football program for the season, cancelling all competition during the 2020-2021 school year. That’s a hugely significant move, as it marks the first NCAA Division I FBS program (the highest division of collegiate football) to suspend its football team, according to ESPN.

While UConn is re-joining the Big East next season for most sports, that conference doesn’t participate in football, where UConn is an ‘independent.’ This means they have no conference schedule, and with many conferences canceling, or severely limiting, their football schedules for this season, that would have made putting together a football schedule for the Huskies this season challenging.

The school cited health and safety, saying that COVID-19 put football players “at an unacceptable level of risk.” UConn did actually complete a full spring practice schedule with its football team, and team members have been back on campus for about a month this summer. The school says there have been zero positive COVID-19 tests among football players so far.

The football team itself has supported the move, according to the UConn release:

Athletics Director David Benedict: “The necessary measures needed to mitigate risk of football student-athletes contracting the coronavirus are not conducive to delivering an optimal experience for our team. Ultimately, the student-athletes would rather preserve their year of eligibility with an eye to competing under more typical circumstances during the 2021 season.”

Head football coach Randy Edsall: “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. 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.”

Football players group statement: “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 & 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 decision by an FBS school to suspend football is an important one as colleges (and high schools) struggle to make decisions on fall sports amid the ongoing pandemic. Swimming & diving are winter sports at the college level, but many schools have already pushed all athletic competition to January 1 or later, which would shorten college swim seasons.

The financial impact of football cancellations could also trickle down to swimming programs. A huge list of Division I schools have already eliminated swimming & diving for budgetary reasons, and the absence of revenue-producing sports like football during the 2020-2021 season could further exacerbate the financial issues facing college athletic departments.

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Vlad
1 month ago

Watch the domino effect now…when schools start cancelling biggest sport in USA…all other sports will follow same fate shortly after…unfortunately…

Blackflag82
Reply to  Vlad
1 month ago

I don’t think you’re wrong, but unless I’m mistaken, UConn is going to save millions by not playing football. When a school that is near breaking even or making a little bit on football (UCF, USF, Boise, etc…) start canceling, I think that is when we would see dominoes begin

PowerPlay
Reply to  Blackflag82
1 month ago

Are you assuming they are not going to pay coaches or honor scholarships? I’m assuming these are “fixed” costs, so the only variable costs they save are travel to games, maybe some field maintenance. Unless they have some insurance coverage for lost revenue (seems unlikely) this would make canceling football an increase in losses for the school, and more sports cut. This football program is one of the worst managed D1 programs in America.

Blackflag82
Reply to  PowerPlay
1 month ago

“In January, the Courant reported that the Huskies made $3.3 million in revenue and spent $16.6 million in 2019” – https://www.si.com/college/2020/05/26/uconn-football-sports-cuts I clearly don’t know the whole financial status of the football program, but had time at work today, so did a little digging- Even at the full out of state tuition rate the team’s scholarships would be almost 3.2 million. coaching – head coach is 1.1 million, defensive coach is 300k (i’ll assume that much for O coach as well), there are another 8 coaches who look to average about 125k a piece. There are 11 other positions on their website that are not Graduate level positions…I’ll assume 100k average for each of these; so total coaching costs are… Read more »

Erik
Reply to  Blackflag82
1 month ago

Quick google search found an article from Jan ’19… coach salary will obviously drop too, but seems 2.3mil savings at a minimum by not playing. https://www.courant.com/sports/hc-sp-uconn-financials-by-the-numbers-20190118-20190118-xrctubjl5vhqzdgdyxp5k4rzei-story.html

Swim3057
Reply to  Blackflag82
1 month ago

UCONN is losing revenue that they negotiated to televise their home football games with CBS. It is not an insignificant amount

Deepsouth
Reply to  Swim3057
1 month ago

Expected revenue per year on that was $500,000 per Sports Business Journal

Blackflag82
Reply to  Swim3057
1 month ago

see my above comment which goes into more depth, but based on reporting of 2019 expenses, UConn brought in 3.3 million and spent 16.6 million…They could double that 3.3 million revenue and it would still make more sense financially for them to not play any games.

Irish Ringer
Reply to  Blackflag82
1 month ago

To BLACKFAG’s example which is on point.
In 2016 Boise State brought in $23 million in revenue from football and accounts for approximately 70% of the schools revenue comes from football. With that being said they are projecting $7-$10 million in losses for a partially filled stadium and up to $15 million in total losses.
https://www.ktvb.com/article/sports/boise-state-dropping-baseball-program-swimming-diving-budget/277-ad2945d0-d4ab-4dbe-a4a5-af1ea603f0e7

Vlad
Reply to  Vlad
1 month ago

This aged well…lol

James Beam
1 month ago

Serious question here- is this any different than Bob Bowman and ASU redshirting his teams for a season?

Erik
Reply to  James Beam
1 month ago

I guess maybe it depends on what the coaching staff demands of the players? That is an interesting question.

Coach
Reply to  James Beam
1 month ago

Man, UCONN playing chess when everyone else is playing checkers!

It is different, because at least a portion of the ASU swimmers will probably end up competing in non-NCAA meets this year…

PowerPlay
Reply to  James Beam
1 month ago

The difference is ASU swimming generates de minimis or zero revenue. So very little economic impact to ASU. U Conn football generates revenue that is being foregone. One is a quasi pro sport. The other is an amateur sport.

Blackflag82
Reply to  PowerPlay
1 month ago

UConn lost 13+ million last year from football and only generated 3.3 million…it seems in their case having a football season costs every other sport money…

The Importer AND Exporter
1 month ago

UCONN is an independent in football, so this is likely less about COVID and more about no conference wanting to bring them in for the season (like the ACC did with Notre Dame) as conferences move to conference-only schedules.

Sucks to have no friends…

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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