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University of Connecticut spikes fall football, NCAA Divisions II and III cancel playoffs

The Huskies became the first team in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the sport's top level, to call it quits for the 2020 season.
Connecticut quarterback Jack Zergiotis (11) gains yardage during the second half of an NCAA college football game against East Carolina Saturday in East Hartford, Conn., Nov. 23, 2019.
Connecticut quarterback Jack Zergiotis (11) gains yardage during the second half of an NCAA college football game against East Carolina Saturday in East Hartford, Conn., Nov. 23, 2019.Stephen Dunn / AP file

Ongoing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic prompted the University of Connecticut to cancel its upcoming football season and the NCAA to pull the plug on playoffs for two levels.

The school in Storrs, Connecticut, became the first program in college football's top flight to spike 2020 play.

"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," UConn 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," he said.

Then hours after UConn's announcement, the NCAA said that it's lowest tier, Division III, will not hold playoffs for all fall sports, including football. Shortly after that, the NCAA announced that Division II would also cancel championships.

North Central Cardinals defensive back Zach Greenberg (2) holds the trophy high after winning the Division III football championship game between the UW-Whitewater Warhawks and North Central College Cardinals on Dec. 20, 2019 in Shenandoah, Texas.Ken Murray / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NCAA's move follows weeks of individual Division III schools and conferences preemptively saying theywouldn't play football or any other fall sports in 2020 due to the pandemic.

It's still not clear if the top levels of college football, the Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision, will have playoffs or take the field at all this fall.

"With the health and safety of the division’s student-athletes, coaches, athletics administrators and communities as its priority, the Division III Presidents Council made the decision Wednesday to cancel the championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related administrative and financial challenges," according to the NCAA statement.

Similarly, the NCAA said Division II canceled the fall championships "due to the operational, logistical and financial challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic."

The UConn Huskies play in the Football Bowl Subdivision of college football, one of the sport's top tiers.

The school's announcement comes despite the state of Connecticut having driven its rate of positive tests to just 1.24 percent, among the nation's lowest, according to data collected Wednesday morning by Johns Hopkins University.

As the nation continues to struggle with COVID-19, major college football alliances like the Big Ten, Pacific-12 and Southeastern Conferences are dialing back their seasons by cancelling non-conference contests for 2020.

But the Huskies play football as an independent program, thus having to build a schedule without the benefit of built-in conference rivals.

UConn officials are banking on the virus being under control before fall 2021, when the Huskies can play again.

"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," UConn Coach Randy Edsall said in a statement.

"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."

With the coronavirus pandemic still raging, football's viability for the fall remains in question for every level of play.