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Big Sky postpones football conference competition until spring

by From news services
| August 7, 2020 10:43 AM

FARMINGTON, Utah — Due to continuing concerns related to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Big Sky Conference is postponing its fall 2020 football season to spring 2021. The conference’s Presidents’ Council convened Thursday and voted to move forward on Friday.

“The health and safety of our students is our top priority, and ultimately that concern guided our decision-making process over the past few months as we explored every option regarding the 2020 football season,” said Andy Feinstein, president of the University of Northern Colorado and chair of the Big Sky Presidents’ Council. “We recognize just how meaningful these opportunities are to the student-athletes, coaches, and staff throughout our conference, and empathize that they won’t be able to compete this fall for a Big Sky championship. We are eager to provide our football programs with that opportunity in the spring when it’s hopefully safer to be able to do so.”

Non-conference play for the conference’s football programs is still pending further review. The Big Sky has begun exploring modified versions of a conference football schedule to be played in the spring and fully supports the NCAA shifting the FCS championship to the spring.

“We understand the decision made by the Big Sky Conference Presidents,” Idaho Athletic Director Terry Gawlik said. “It was an incredibly difficult decision that was made with the best interests of the student-athletes in mind for the conference as a whole. Moving the Big Sky Conference football season to the spring hopefully affords our league partners more time to prepare and fine tune their health and safety precautions.”

Idaho is still weighing its options for home games in the fall.

“Our testing here at the University of Idaho is set up to meet or exceed the recommendations provided by the NCAA,” Gawlik said. “Pending further review, we will be exploring the option of playing non-conference games this fall. We look forward to releasing more information as it becomes available.”

Eastern Washington had its season opener at Florida canceled on July 30.

“This is the right decision for our member institutions, even though we realize how disappointing it will be for all who represent and care about Big Sky football,” Commissioner Tom Wistrcill said. “We will now shift our attention to doing everything within our power to provide our football student-athletes and coaches with a conference schedule and a championship opportunity in the spring. We already have begun actively engaging our fellow FCS conferences and the NCAA to join us then for what will be a unique opportunity to return to competition and compete for an FCS championship.”

Big Sky institutions may continue with permissible athletics activities at their discretion while abiding by NCAA legislation, campus policies, and local and state regulations. Other Big Sky sports that compete in the fall will continue to be reviewed with a final determination made at a later date.

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Idaho defensive back Denzel Brantley deflects the pass from Eastern Washington wide receiver Terence Grady in a 2018 game at Roos Field in Cheney. On Friday, the Big Sky Conference announced it was pushing conference play to the spring. Idaho is still attempting to play some nonconference games on campus in Moscow this fall.