The UAlbany football team has opted out of its final two games of the spring 2021 season, the school’s athletic department announced Wednesday.
After starting the season 1-3, UAlbany was scheduled to visit Delaware on Saturday before wrapping up its season on April 10 at home against Villanova. According to the release announcing the move, “The decision to opt out was made with a focus on the health and safety of the team’s student-athletes due to the high number of injuries on the roster,” but that the decision was not “directly related” to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After conversations with Coach [Greg] Gattuso, the football leadership group, our athletic trainers, and our president, we have concluded that it is in the best interests of the health of our football student-athletes to opt out of the remainder of our season,” UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson said in the release. “Our student-athletes have done a tremendous job following all of our health and safety protocols this season, and this decision is not directly related to COVID-19. Rather, it was made based on the extraordinary amount of injuries that have occurred this season and the overall health of our football program.”
UAlbany incurred a high number of injuries in its four spring games. The team was without four starters — quarterback Jeff Undercuffler, wide receiver Tyler Oedekoven, offensive tackle Parris Heath and linebacker Levi Metheny — due to injury heading into Saturday’s 21-7 loss to Stony Brook.
During the Stony Brook game, several more players — including defensive lineman Mazon Walker, offensive linemen Kobe Thomas and Dominick Lito, and four of the team’s top five healthy wide receivers — also left the game due to injury.
The team was unable to participate in any padded practices during the fall semester, when the entire UAlbany athletic department went through multiple pandemic-related pauses. The team’s first full-contact workout since the end of its 2019 season came when preseason camp opened in early February.
“We are all competitive people and have done everything in our power to play a full spring season,” UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso said in the release. “While disappointed we won’t see that happen, we are fully supportive of this decision. It all comes down to the health and safety of our student-athletes. I am so proud of our team for their efforts complying with all safety protocols and University guidelines dating back to the Fall semester and up to this point.”
In a separate statement, CAA Football commissioner Joe D’Antonio said the league “respects and supports the difficult decision made by UAlbany.”
UAlbany is scheduled to open its fall season Sept. 4 at North Dakota State.