Weber State football early fall workout 08 stock

This July 16, 2020, photo, shows the south end zone of Stewart Stadium at Weber State University in Ogden.

The Big Sky Conference announced Thursday morning it will postpone 2020 fall sports to spring 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement from the Big Sky says school presidents met Wednesday and affirmed the decision as recommended by athletic directors. The council of presidents voted Aug. 6 to postpone football to the spring; Thursday’s announcement also moves men’s and women’s cross country, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball to the spring.

“While I am confident that our conference is making the right decision for the health and safety of our student-athletes, it breaks my heart knowing how disappointing this will be to all of them who were eagerly anticipating the opportunity to compete this fall,” Big Sky Commissioner Tom Wistrcill said in a statement. “Our efforts in the conference office now will focus on doing everything within our power to make their spring season the best that it possibly can be, which includes advocating for their NCAA championships to be held then.”

Big Sky logo

The conference also said nonconference contests in all fall sports will not be permitted.

The announcement came not long after the Western Athletic Conference announced it was postponing fall sports to the spring, and two days after the Pac-12 Conference suspended all athletic activities until Jan. 1, which affects winter sports.

Focus now turns to trying to put on winter sports, which are basketball and indoor track for both men and women. Basketball season typically begins in the second week of November.

Simultaneously, the conference and Big Sky schools must make preparations for staging football and volleyball seasons at the same time as softball, golf, and track and field schedules — with the potential of basketball season trailing into the spring calendar.

There’s also a looming question about the viability of staging a cross country schedule at the same time as track and field; typically, many runners compete in cross country in the fall and track in the spring.

Weber State President Brad Mortensen previously told the Standard-Examiner that delays in receiving COVID-19 test results complicated some schools’ ability to safely conduct a season and meet NCAA guidelines for a return to play. One school said it could not get results back for two weeks.

He identified the development of rapid, cheap COVID-19 testing as a key factor for schools, many of which do not have the money of professional leagues to create bubbles and conduct constant testing, being able to resume college athletics.

“As campuses begin re-opening this fall, we hope that everyone remains safe and healthy while we continue to learn more about how best to manage this fluid situation and its impact on higher education,” Wistrcill said in the Big Sky’s statement.

Contact Brett Hein at bhein@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter @bhein3 and @WeberHQ.

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