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The University of Massachusetts will not be playing football this fall.

The school released a statement Tuesday morning announcing the cancellation of the 2020 season.

"I am absolutely heartbroken for our players, our former players, our alumni and our UMass football community," coach Walt Bell said in a statement. "Our job as coaches and mentors is to provide opportunities for our players, and do everything in our power not to take them away.

"Today's news was devastating, but we will be resilient and prepared to be our best when our best is required."

The members of the football team began returning to campus in late June for team activities. The Minutemen had begun preparing for its fall season last Thursday.

"After consulting with university, state and public health officials, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 UMass football season," UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in the statement.

In the statement, the UMass athletic director left open the possibility of playing sports in the spring.

"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," he said. "We remain hopeful and fully intend to conduct a competitive schedule for our fall sports in the 2021 spring semester."

Over the past seven weeks, the program had only one positive test with more than 600 COVID-19 tests administered.

"I would like to give an unbelievable amount of gratitude to our medical professionals, our administration, our campus, our athletic training staff and our operations staff for creating one of the safest environments in college football," Bell said in the release. "The testing, the protocols, the risk mitigation and the execution have been incredible."

Bell had said that only one player had opted out of participating this summer. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Zak Simon announced on social media on Monday that he was not going to play. It is not known if he was the player who had opted out earlier, or if he was a second UMass player who had elected not to play.

UMass' football schedule had shrunk to seven games from its original 12. The Mountain West Conference announced Monday that it would not play sports in the fall. That took the Oct. 3 game at New Mexico off the schedule.

Earlier, Connecticut and Albany had canceled seasons. Then the Southeastern Conference announced it would play a conference-only schedule, which eliminated the UMass game at Auburn. Last week, the Mid-American Conference canceled play, scratching the game at Akron off the schedule.

The novel coronavirus pandemic forced UMass to cut spring practice short and the Minutemen did not play its annual spring game.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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