On the first official day of fall camp for the University of Massachusetts football program, athletic director Ryan Bamford and second-year coach Walt Bell said they both have a good feeling that there is interest to play football games this fall in the midst of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think that the million-dollar question is what the public health environment is going to look like moving forward,” said Bamford in a Zoom call with reporters. “Right now, we feel on August 5, that our first opponent will be Troy (Sept. 12) and two weeks later Appalachian State (Sept. 26). Both of those ADs have told me they’re interested in playing and I’ve told them of our interest.” With UConn officially cancelling its season Wednesday, which included the opener Sept. 3 vs. UMass, the Minutemen now have nine games on the schedule. Previously, Albany (Sept. 19) suspended its season and Auburn (Nov. 14) eliminated all non-conference foes. “We’re only as good as the people in our environment, and they’ve done an amazing job keeping it safe,” said Bamford, adding that he has taken a number of calls from September, October, and November dates that are now open. Added Bell, “Every single day, there is COVID-19 education . . . It’s a great lesson to just control what you can control.”
NCAA: Athletes must be allowed to opt out
The NCAA Board of Governors issued requirements US schools and conferences must meet if they want to conduct fall sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic. All student-athletes must be allowed to opt out of participating because of concerns about contracting the coronavirus. If an athlete does so, his or her athletics scholarship must be honored by the school. “Student-athletes should never feel pressured into playing their sport if they do not believe it is safe to do so,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in the statement. “These policies ensure they can make thoughtful, informed decisions about playing this fall.” Divisions must decide by Aug. 21 if their fall sports seasons and NCAA championships should occur this year, according to the board. Ohio State is among the schools that required its players to sign a document — called the Buckeye Pledge — acknowledging their responsibilities for maintaining proper safety protocols prior to returning to workouts, the Columbus Dispatch . . . Los County health director Barbara Ferrer said during a briefing that at least eight UCLA football players have tested positive, adding that contact tracing is ongoing in regards to the positive tests. The university reports on its website that 167 students or staff members have tested positive or had their diagnoses reported to the university. UCLA has suspended on-campus classes and has restricted houses to athletes who have reported for fall sports practices and conditioning. The Bruins are scheduled to open the season on Sept. 26 against Southern California, but new athletic director Martin Jarmond has said that is likely to move to another date . . . The Big Ten released its 10-game conference-only football schedule beginning as early as Labor Day weekend but cautioned there is no certainty games will be played. “We’re gathering medical information daily, we’re communicating with all of our constituents in the Big Ten and communicating with student-athletes,” said commissioner Kevin Warren. “This will not be a straight line this year.” The regular season starts the weekend of Sept. 5 and runs through Nov. 21. Coronavirus outbreaks forced the shutdown of voluntary workouts at Ohio State, Michigan State, Rutgers and Northwestern . . . Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will make $2.5 million a year under a new three-year deal reached after his flirtation with the Colorado head coaching job.
Mass Junior Am semis set
John Broderick (Dedham C&PC), Jack O’Donnell (Boston GC), Joseph Lenane (KOHR Golf), and Matthew Epstein (Hopkinton CC) advanced to Thursday’s semifinals of the 103rd Massachusetts Junior Amateur with quarterfinal victories at Cranberry Valley Golf Course in Harwich. Broderick, a rising junior at Belmont Hill who has committed to Vanderbilt, has already won the New England Amateur. He will take on the Michigan-bound O’Donnell, a recent BC High grad. Epstein, a three-time All-Schlolastic who is headed to William & Mary, outlasted A.J. Gilpin, in 19 holes. A rising junior at Xaverian, Lenane rolled, 4 and 3, in his quarterfinal. The 18-hole final is scheduled for Thursday afternoon . . . Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker will still use wild-card picks for half of his 12-man team, even though the tournament has been postponed until 2021at Whistling Straits. The points list will resume from its original start and conclude after the second FedEx Cup playoff event next year at the BMW Championship.
Timbers land in MLS is Back semifinals
Jeremy Ebobisse and Sebastian Blanco each scored and the Portland Timbers earned a spot in the MLS is Back championship game with a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union. The Timbers will face the winner of Thursday night’s game between Orlando City and Minnesota United in the title match on Tuesday. The tournament winner earns a spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League . . . Manchester United and Inter Milan booked their places in the Europa League quarterfinals as continental soccer returned in empty stadiums amid the coronavirus pandemic. Anthony Martial scored in the 88th minute to lift United to a 2-1 win against LASK Linz, completing a 7-1 aggregate win over the Austrian club, five months after the first leg was played. Inter beat Getafe 2-0 with goals from Romelu Lukaku and Christian Eriksen. It was a one-off game played in Germany because they did not complete a first leg before the European season was suspended. Earlier, Shakhtar Donetsk and Copenhagen also advanced
No. 1 pick Ionescu to see foot specialist
New York Liberty rookie sensation Sabrina Ionescu is heading to New York to see an ankle and foot specialist after the WNBA’s No. 1 pick was diagnosed with a Grade 3 left ankle sprain last Friday against Atlanta. The first player in college history to have 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists while starring at Oregon, Ionescu played in only 2 ½ games this season and might be hard-pressed to return with the WNBA playing a truncated season with only 19 games left over the next 6 weeks . . . Minus Ionescu, the Liberty were thumped by the Minnesota Lynx, 93-66, as Bridget Carleton scored a career-high 25 points and Lexie Brown had 15 points and seven steals . . . . . . Despite a loss in revenue from holding its marquee event without spectators amid the coronavirus pandemic, the US Tennis Association said that its overall compensation to players at this year’s Open will be $53.4 million — which is 93.3 percent of the roughly $57.2 million awarded in 2019 . . . Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put into an induced coma Wednesday after sustaining head and chest injuries in a crash on the final stretch of the Tour de Pologne race in southern Poland, organizers said. Sprinting for the win at the end of the event’s opening stage, Jakobsen was sent flying into the side barriers after a collision with fellow Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen. He suffered injuries to the head and chest, but his doctor said that his condition was stable at the intensive care unit.