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Report: Mid-American Conference cancels football season

The first FBS league decides not to play the 2020 season, at least in the fall.

Miami Redhawks quarterback Brett Gabbert scrambles out of the pocket during the Lending Tree Bowl between the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns and the Miami Redhawks on January 06, 2020, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, AL. Photo by Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Brett McMurphy of Stadium is reporting that the Mid-American Conference won’t play college football in the fall of 2020. The MAC becomes the first FBS league to suspend operations in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 12-team league took a massive financial hit when the guarantee games that make up a big portion of its football revenue were canceled as several Power Five leagues decided to play a conference-only slate. The MAC was originally scheduled to play 11 Big Ten teams, and for a league that struggles to sell tickets the revenue from those guarantee games is a huge part of the budget.

The MAC reached its decision Saturday morning in a vote by the league’s presidents, sources said. The conference presidents initially met Thursday to finalize the league’s scheduling format. However, Northern Illinois president Lisa Freeman, a former research scientist at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, indicated her school would not play this fall because of the health and safety concerns, sources said.

“The league didn’t like the look of NIU going out on their own and not playing,” said a source, explaining the MAC’s non-vote on Thursday.

The Huskies have made a league-record eight MAC title game appearances and won four of the last nine MAC titles. After the league didn’t reach a decision Thursday, it voted Saturday not to play this fall, sources said.

The possibility of a spring football season, truncated though it might be, remains on the table. Various college athletics officials we’ve talked to indicated they don’t see any way college football will be played until completion in 2020, but hold out hope that some games can be played during the spring semester when the nation has the virus more under control and a vaccine could be available.

The MAC joins UConn in not playing in 2020, which combine for 10% of the 130 teams in the bowl subdivision.