The University of Massachusetts announced Monday that it intends to schedule and play a limited number of football games this fall. The decision was reached following a positive review of the football program's stringent COVID-19 safety protocols and rigorous testing regimen, in place since players' return to campus in June. It follows announcements from college football conferences across the country also returning to play this fall and reverses a department decision on August 11 to postpone football competition until the spring.
UMass is focused on a competitive start date in mid-October with development of a competitive multi-contest schedule already underway. All opponents, game dates and sites for the 2020 season will be announced as they are confirmed and will be scheduled based on the ability to meet campus and state regulations.
"The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff has always been our first priority," said director of athletics Ryan Bamford. "Since returning to campus in June, the members of our football program have been vigilant in following the policies and safety protocols instituted by the state, our university and athletics department, helping us reach a high level of confidence that we can safely conduct a truncated season this fall. Further, our recent work to generate a schedule in the spring semester, similar to our other fall sports, indicated that fall 2020 provided the best opportunity for our football student-athletes to take the field this academic year."
Football student-athletes and staff returned to campus for team activities in late June, with extensive health and safety protocols in place to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. Over the past 13 weeks more than 1800 COVID-19 tests have been administered to members of the football program with only two positive results. All student-athletes, coaches and support staff will continue to be tested multiple times per week and can increase testing to meet additional opponent requirements in order to play games, if necessary.
"Today is a great day for Massachusetts Football," said head football coach Walt Bell. "Everyone associated with our program is excited to play football this fall. We have successfully created one of the safest environments in college football since June and our young men deserve the opportunity to compete in 2020. We are grateful to our campus leadership for supporting academic and competitive opportunities for our student-athletes and staff to do what they love in a safe manner."
Since announcing the cancellation of the fall season on August 11, football student-athletes have continued training on campus and have remained enrolled in coursework full-time, either virtually or in-person, in line with the University of Massachusetts' update to its fall reopening plan, announced on August 6.
Student-athletes who choose not to practice or play this fall can opt out of the 2020 season with no impact to their NCAA eligibility, roster status or scholarship aid agreement.
In addition, following consultation with local public health and university officials, UMass Athletics will not host fans for home games at McGuirk Alumni Stadium this fall. Season ticket holders will be contacted by the UMass Ticket Office on an individual basis with more information. The department will announce media rights distribution plans as games are scheduled throughout the fall.