The ascending trajectory of Weber State football led to 2020, when the three-time defending Big Sky champions were set to return oodles of starters and brought in an FBS transfer quarterback to help lead them to the promised land.
That journey is now on hold, but still holds on to hopes of resuming this school year.
After reports swirled Thursday that the Big Sky was going to cancel the 2020 football season, the conference announced Friday morning that the council of school presidents voted to postpone the season to spring 2021 due to concerns over the continued coronavirus pandemic.
The decision was first reported by The State Hornet, Sacramento State’s student news organization, late Thursday night.
“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, via statement from the conference.
The Friday announcement said the Big Sky is still discussing nonconference game opportunities and “fully supports the NCAA shifting the FCS Championship to the spring.”
A determination for other fall sports the Big Sky sponsors — cross country, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball — will be made later, the conference said.
“We just don’t think it’s safe right now for our players,” Nelsen told The State Hornet. The outlet, along with Skyline Sports, reported that Big Sky athletic directors recommended that presidents vote to postpone to the spring instead of cancel.
Nelsen told The State Hornet that the Big Sky “will work with the NCAA to try to get the football championship moved to the spring.”
At the FCS level, the Colonial Athletic, Ivy League, SWAC, MEAC, Pioneer League and Patriot League have all pulled out of the fall football season. Most have canceled; it seems possible some may revisit the possibility of spring football with the Big Sky pushing the NCAA to stage the FCS Playoffs in the spring.
Big Sky Commissioner Tom Wistrcill said the conference is lobbying other conferences to join them in the spring.
“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,” Wistrcill said in a statement. “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.”
Minutes after the Big Sky made its vote official, Bison Report, a North Dakota State site, reported the Missouri Valley Football Conference will attempt to play in the spring.
As of now, those numbers would put the FCS below the 50% participation level required for the NCAA to put on a championship for the sport, according to guidelines set by the Division I Council.
The statement says Big Sky schools may continue with permissible practice activities within NCAA, campus and local guidelines.
Weber State has risen to national prominence over the last three seasons. The Wildcats are 32-6 against FCS opponents in the last three seasons, including a 21-3 Big Sky mark, on the way to three straight trips to at least the playoff quarterfinals.
In 2019, the Wildcats were 11-2 against FCS opponents and reached the FCS semifinals for the first time, earning a school record No. 3 end-of-season ranking.