Continued changes to college athletics unfolded Friday after the previous 48 hours saw mass suspensions and cancellations to professional and college sports leagues worldwide, while Utah high school sports are also taking a two-week pause beginning Monday.
Chief among them locally is BYU and the University of Utah announcing the cancellation of all spring sports activities and practices. The Mountain West Conference, where Utah State calls home, canceled spring sports competitions Thursday.
As the Big Sky has only suspended spring sports and not outright canceled them, Weber State falls under that umbrella and has suspended spring competition.
A statement from WSU athletics said “teams will still be permitted to hold practice activities in limited situations. All practices moving forward will be closed to the public and media.”
The school did not know Friday what that meant for the spring football game scheduled for April 11, so the status of that scrimmage, which is usually open to the public, is currently unknown.
“The well-being and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff, and fans is of utmost importance and is our first priority,” Weber State athletic director Tim Crompton said in a statement. “We are working closely with the university administration and the Big Sky Conference regarding future procedures and we are focused on assisting our student-athletes during this challenging time.”
At Dixie State University in St. George, an announced cancellation of remaining spring sports events and travel means the Trailblazers have officially ended their time in Division II. DSU is set to join Division I on July 1, with football playing as an FCS independent and other sports joining the Western Athletic Conference.
Some good news came Friday, however: The NCAA plans to extend the eligibility of spring sports athletes, whose seasons have largely been taken away. Thursday, the NCAA canceled all national spring sports championship events and most conferences have canceled spring competition.
This would impact all kinds of top teams and players, such as BYU men’s volleyball, which is ranked No. 1 nationally.
As an example, it could also include Weber State softball’s career hits leader Takesha Saltern and her fellow senior teammates. Though the methods and details of extending eligibility are yet to be determined, and decisions to return to school for a renewed senior season are likely to be made on an individual basis for athletes across the country, the NCAA’s decision is a welcome, compassionate offering to those athletes.
Also, in a decision that should level the playing field between various university travel policies nationally, and limit all sorts of interstate travel, the NCAA suspended all in-person recruiting activities Friday, lasting through April 15.
Other impacts brought more bitterness, however. The NFL is ending in-person visits between pro teams and prospects for the remainder of this draft season — effectively canceling college pro days around the country.
Pro days are events hosted by each school where scouts for NFL teams are invited to see draft-eligible players work out. Such events are especially crucial to FCS programs like Weber State and senior stars like defensive end Jonah Williams, who otherwise usually do not receive exposure like those players invited to the NFL Draft Combine workouts.
While NFL teams can conduct phone and videoconference contact with prospects, this cancellation is a blow to many players with professional hopes.
“A handful of FCS players move from (undrafted free agents) to Day 3 picks because of their pro day,” FCS football analyst Sam Herder tweeted Friday. “Some aren’t even on radars and their pro days get eyes on their film and they get drafted. Heck, I’ve written stories on guys who didn’t even start and still got a rookie minicamp invite because of pro day.”