The Stony Brook University football team runs onto the field at the start of the Homecoming game on Oct. 5. This upcoming football season has been suspended, and will possibly begin in the spring. SAMANTHA ROBINSON/STATESMAN FILE

The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) officially announced the suspension of the 2020 football season on the morning of Friday, July 16.

“Although it was our hope to compete this fall, circumstances beyond our control have necessitated an alternate path,” Stony Brook Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron said in a press release. “I support the decision, and welcome the clarity that it provides to our student-athletes, coaches and staff. We will work closely with our conferences as they monitor the landscape and conditions surrounding the pandemic, with the health and wellness of our student-athletes being our top priority.”

The CAA has expressed interest in possibly conducting a football season during the spring of 2021 instead.

Numerous conferences in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), such as the Ivy League, Patriot League and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference have made the decision over the last week to not hold athletic competitions including football in the fall of 2020. Conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), specifically the Big Ten and the Pac-12, have restricted competition to conference play only.

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A day prior, Fox Sports 1 and The Athletic reporter Bruce Feldman said on Twitter, “The CAA conference is expected to announce tomorrow that the league will not be playing football this fall.” It was the first credible indication that Stony Brook’s football season would be in jeopardy after the decisions of other conferences led to uncertainty about the playability of college football in 2020.

Although the CAA will not play a conference schedule this fall, its member schools are free to play non-conference opponents as an independent. Shortly after Feldman’s tweet, James Madison University (JMU) beat reporter Greg Madia said on Twitter, “According to sources, JMU still plans to play 2020 fall football as long as the NCAA still holds FCS postseason play. My understanding is most CAA schools are expected to elect not to play, but JMU will play.”

James Madison head coach Curt Cignetti appeared to confirm the decision, tweeting “Built different! #GoDukes!” less than an hour after Feldman’s announcement. 

“As of now, the FCS Championship schedule has not been changed,” James Madison Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne said in a press release. “Accordingly, while the majority of CAA institutions have decided not to continue with Fall football, we are currently looking at how to rebuild a schedule for the Fall season while following health and safety protocols and guidance.”

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If other schools elect to follow in James Madison’s footsteps, games between two CAA schools will count as independent non-conference games because conference standings will not be kept.

Stony Brook, however, will not conduct a fall season independent of the CAA and will look to play in the spring instead. “From a health and safety standpoint, from a COVID-19 standpoint and from a perspective of preparation for a season, I’m very comfortable with our decision,” head coach Chuck Priore told Madia.

“With the inability to prepare correctly over the past four months I feel it would have been an injustice to ask our football team to go out and perform,” Priore said in a Twitter statement. “This program has very high standards and our players hold themselves accountable to those standards. It would not have been possible to sustain that level of performance in a safe manner this Fall season.”

Stony Brook was set to earn $725,000 in guarantee money over the first two weeks of the fall 2020 season by playing against FBS opponents Western Michigan and Florida Atlantic. It is unclear if these games will be rescheduled and if Stony Brook would receive guarantee money in the event of a cancellation.

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