Oct 27, 2018; East Hartford, CT, USA; Massachusetts Minutemen running back Marquis Young (8) runs the ball against the Connecticut Huskies in the second half at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. UMass defeated UConn 22-17. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

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UMass opts back in to fall football season

Massachusetts will play a limited fall football season, six weeks after canceling it amid coronavirus concerns, the school announced Monday.

In a news release, the school said the decision was made after reviewing the program’s COVID-19 safety protocols and “rigorous testing regimen” in place since players returned to campus in June.

The Big Ten announced its plan last week to play a fall season after announcing in August that the season would be delayed until spring. Leaders of the Pac-12 and Mid-American conferences also are mulling such a move.

UMass is seeking to begin its season in mid-October and is working to develop a “competitive multi-contest schedule.” Any home games will be played without fans at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff has always been our first priority,” athletic director Ryan Bamford said. “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.”

The school said that it had conducted more than 1,800 COVID-19 tests within the football program, with two positive results, and will continue to test players, coaches and support staff “multiple” times each week.

“Everyone associated with our program is excited to play football this fall,” Minutemen coach Walt Bell said. “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.”

UMass, an independent, was 1-11 in Bell’s first season in 2019.

–Field Level Media

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