FARMINGTON, Utah — The Big Sky officially announced on Friday that they have postponed football conference play until the spring. This impacts University of Idaho and Eastern Washington's football teams.
Right now the conference says they are reviewing non-conference play in the fall, as some games may still be allowed. University of Idaho said in a release Friday that they are still pursuing non-conference contests.
“Our testing here at the University of Idaho is set up to meet or exceed the recommendations provided by the NCAA. 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," said Idaho athletic director Terry Gawlik.
Idaho told KREM earlier this week that they are testing athletes when they initially return to campus. They were unable to provide details about their testing program after that initial test. The school did move the start of football fall camp back by a week to August 14th a day before camp was supposed to begin on August 7th.
Eastern playing games in the fall looks less likely, as they were not permitted by Spokane County to start fall camp as of last week.
In a release, Eastern Washington said that they are currently looking to reschedule their home games against Western Illinois on September 12th and Northern Arizona on September 19th. Northern Arizona plays in the Big Sky, but the Big Sky has teams play one non-conference game against a conference opponent before the conference season starts.
Although there was no official word from the conference about how many games may be played in the spring, multiple reports have circulated that the spring season would feature eight conference games. Eastern also said in their release that the football season could start as early as February.
“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.”
This is obviously big news for the Inland Northwest, but it’s big news nationally as well because the FCS playoffs are now unofficially canceled.
The Big Sky dropping out of regular season play now puts the amount of FCS teams playing this fall at under 50%. The NCAA stated on Wednesday that if less than 50% of teams in a division are competing this fall, then the playoffs will be canceled.
Conferences are still the ones deciding games at the regular season level, but if playoffs aren’t in the mix, many conferences most likely will move their games to the spring as well.
The Big Sky says decisions for other fall sports seasons will be made at a later date.