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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The Mid-American Conference has canceled its fall football season due to COVID-19 concerns.

The conference is also postponing the fall 2020 seasons in men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, and field hockey.

The Council of Presidents is directing the Commissioner to develop a plan to provide competitive opportunities for the fall sports during the spring of 2021.

The twelve-team conference is the first Football Bowl Subdivision conference to opt out of playing this year.

The conference is citing player health and safety concerns as the reasoning behind this decision.

The MAC reached this decision Saturday morning in a vote with league presidents.

The presidents initially met on Thursday to finalize their scheduling format, the Stadium reports. During that meeting Lisa Freeman, Northern Illinois University President, said that NIU would not be participating in the upcoming season due to safety concerns.

“The league didn’t like the look of NIU going out on their own and not playing,” league sources told the Stadium.

Six Ohio universities are current MAC members including the University of Akron, Bowling Green State University, Kent State University, Miami University, Ohio University and the University of Toledo.

Kent State University released the following statement to FOX 8 regarding the league’s decision:

Kent State fully supports the Mid-American Conference’s decision to cancel fall sports. Given the information we have today regarding the spread of the virus and after careful consideration of the health and safety of our student-athletes and staff, we are not confident a safe environment can be created for athletic competition in accordance with our rigorous reopening standards. The risks associated with athletic competition, such as close contact with other student-athletes and travel requirements, present greater challenges to maintaining safety standards than daily campus activities. We understand this decision is heartbreaking for our student-athletes, coaches and trainers who work tirelessly to represent Kent State with excellence, as well as our alumni and fans whose support for our Golden Flashes is unwavering. We will continue to monitor the environment and make a decision on winter sports at a later time. 

Kent State President Todd Diacon sent the following message to all student-athletes Saturday:

Today, I along with the other MAC university presidents, voted to cancel all fall sports. We did so to protect your health and safety, and that of your families and friends, coaches and staff. With travel and extended close contact in practice and competitions, our ability to implement the kinds of public health best practices we’ve implemented for the general student body are constrained. Also, like many of you, we are concerned about testing availability and turnaround time, fearing that the thousands of tests required each week across the MAC might delay results for others in our communities. Because of cancellations of competitions to date, many of our teams already were facing shortened or disrupted seasons raising further questions about the risks versus the benefits of competing. We care about you, admire your dedication and competitive drive, and understand this decision will disappoint many of you.

I am proud of our extensive plan, driven by health practitioners and public health experts, for the safest reopening of school possible, and we look forward to welcoming you and your fellow students back to campus for the fall semester. However, there are too many variables in athletics for us to control, and our ability to enhance everyone’s well-being is more limited in athletics than in academics. None of this is fair. In particular, I feel badly for our squads that are here, are working out and are following all of our safety protocols. I want to compliment all of you, including students, coaches and staff, for practicing our Flashes Safe Seven principles, and for doing all you needed to do to protect yourself and others during these past days and weeks. I have never been prouder of you than I am at this moment, and I have never been more disappointed in all of my years in higher education. You did all the right things, you deserve to compete, and yet forces well beyond our control at this moment have prevented us from granting you this opportunity.

It is important for you to know that you will keep your scholarship, and that we will engage with the NCAA to request an additional year of eligibility for those who seek it. It is also important to know that we are here for you, and your coaches will soon outline plans for workouts and team activities during the semester. Of course, I know that you will continue your studies, that you will continue to excel in the classroom and that you will continue to practice the habits that will protect your health, as well as the health of others.

We still do not know what the pandemic has in store for us this year. We will continue to monitor the situation, and at a later date, we will make decisions about winter and spring sports. In the meantime, please know that all of us at Kent State University appreciate your dedication to your team, to your teammates and coaches, and to this great school. I wish you well, I wish you good health and I wish you success in all of your classes this fall.

This decision comes after the Power Five conferences — Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference (SEC) — announced they were reducing and/or eliminating non-conference games.

Bowling Green State Athletic Director Bob Moosbrugger said after the announcement that this greatly impacted the league.

“Ten FBS conferences have signed a college football playoff agreement with an expectation that we will work together for the good of college football. If we are to solve these challenges and be truly dedicated to protecting the health and safety of our student-athletes, we need to do a better job of working together,” Moosbrugger told the Stadium.

MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said the league’s intent was to play a full schedule but had to make revision after the elimination of the Power Five’s non-conference games, which are very valuable to the league.

Several smaller Football Championship Subdivision conferences have also canceled their fall seasons. The NCAA canceled all Division II and III fall sports championships.