College Football: A History of Canceled Seasons

Many programs have canceled their seasons during a crisis

It seems that a new conference is canceling its football season each day. If the college football season doesn't happen or just one or two conferences actually play, it will be unprecedented. However, many programs have canceled their seasons during a crisis. Here is a brief history.

 

Tennessee (1917-18)

The Vols were the only program to suspend varsity football because the majority of its players were serving in World War I. Tennessee did field an unofficial squad of students, though, and army recruits that played eight games over the two seasons, one of which was a 76-0 drubbing by Vanderbilt. Guess which program considers this to be an official game?

 

Louisville (1917-21, '43-45)

Louisville did not field a team for five straight years during and after World War I because of financial constraints. The Cardinals also ceased football operations for three years during World War II, which was a longer period to go without playing than any other program in the country.

 

Alabama, Drake, Florida, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, LSU, Missouri, Nebraska, and Washington University (1918)

A number of games during the 1918 season were canceled because of World War I and the Spanish flu epidemic. In addition, many teams opted not to play altogether, including the entire Missouri Valley Conference.

 

Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington State, Idaho, and Montana (1943-44)

More than half of the Pacific Coast Conference chose not to field teams during the most formidable years of World War II. The other four teams still played, with USC winning the conference titles both seasons.

 

Alabama, Auburn, Boston College, The Citadel, Duquesne, Florida, Fordham, Harvard, Kentucky, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Syracuse, Tennessee, and William & Mary (1943)

Seven schools from the SEC and a number of others also did not field teams because of manpower issues. Unlike the Pacific Coast Conference teams, they were all back in 1944.

 

SMU (1987-88)

After being busted for its sixth recruiting violation in 12 years, the NCAA issued the death penalty to SMU, canceling the program's 1987 season and its home games for 1988. The Mustangs chose not to play solely on the road in 1988 and returned in 1989 with a 2-9 season, where they were outscored by their opponents 187-499. The severe effects on SMU's program and the Southwest Conference are some of the reasons the NCAA has not handed out the death penalty since then.

 

UAB (2015-16)

UAB appeared to make a kneejerk decision in late 2014 in eliminating its football program for financial reasons. But pushback from the University of Alabama Board of Trustees and a massive fundraising effort led the university to bring football back in 2017, and the program has seen its greatest success since its return.

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

 

(Top photo courtesy of @UAB_FB)

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