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FBS independent UMass cancels fall college football

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UMass is canceling its fall football season, the school announced Tuesday.

An FBS independent, UMass may attempt to play a season this spring, athletic director Ryan Bamford said.

"The continuing challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic posed too great of a risk, and we reached the conclusion that attempting to play a season would not have placed the members of our program in the safest situation possible," Bamford said in a statement.

"... These times have presented us with extensive uncertainty, and we are disappointed for all the members of our fall sports programs who will not have the opportunity to compete this autumn. We remain hopeful and fully intend to conduct a competitive schedule for our fall sports in the 2021 spring semester."

Tuesday's decision to cancel the fall season follows a similar move by UConn, which last Wednesday became the first FBS program to call off its fall football season. UMass and UConn had been set to open the season against each other Sept. 3.

UMass held a team meeting Tuesday morning to inform players of the decision, a source said. The Minutemen had been set to open the season at home Sept. 12 against Troy.

UMass coach Walt Bell said he was "absolutely heartbroken" for his players and fans, and he issued a statement on Twitter after the school's decision.

"For the majority of players and coaches in our program, this will be the first fall without football since they could run on two feet," Bell said. "Our players have done an incredible job battling through unbelievable adversity since Friday, March 13th. This group is resilient! Contrary to popular belief, this generation is tough! Our players have battled the pandemic, a completely new academic environment, civil and social unrest, racism, food insolubility, parents being laid off and furloughed, and even tougher for young people -- the unknown.

"Throughout this entire process, our players have been incredibly invested. Our UMass Football parents have been incredibly understanding and supportive as well. The future of UMass Football is going to be special."

Bell said that, as of Monday, out of 733 tests for COVID-19, there was only been one positive test -- with the results of 125 tests taken Monday still to be determined.

Two FBS independents and two leagues, the Mid-American and Mountain West, have decided not to play a fall football season. Decisions could come later Tuesday from the Big Ten, Pac-12 and other conferences.

UMass joined the FBS in 2012 as a member of the Mid-American Conference but left the league following the 2015 season and became independent in football. Most of UMass' teams compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference.