[Vandal] Three More Big Sky Teams Opt Out Of Spring Season

robiegruss at aol.com robiegruss at aol.com
Sat Jan 16 09:27:43 PST 2021

>From The Lewiston TribuneLewiston, IdahoSaturday, January 16, 2020
Three More Big Sky Teams Opt Out Of Spring Season
Staff Report
The Big Sky Conference’s six-game spring football season will be more limited now.
Montana, Montana State and Portland State each opted out of the delayed season Friday — three months after Sacramento State did the same. The Grizzlies, Bobcats and Hornets all are top-15 teams in the Football Championship Subdivision.
The University of Idaho will move ahead with its plans to field a team, a Vandal spokesman said.
In a joint release, the Montana schools announced they will each attempt to play a modified spring schedule, consisting of two nonconference games apiece. UM athletic director Kent Haslam said he doesn’t expect any of the opponents to be from the Big Sky.
The schools cited player safety concerns — a fall season still lies ahead. Grizzlies coach Bobby Hauck and Bobcats boss Jeff Choate each noted the state’s weather in February as well.
“We want to compete this spring but we don’t believe playing a complete conference schedule is in the best interest of our program,” Hauck said. “We feel like we have a championship-caliber team, and preparing to win a championship in Montana in February with no indoor facility would be difficult at best. I think this modified schedule allows our players to compete while keeping the focus on the fall of 2021.”
Choate also brought up potential difficulties in maintaining safety and consistently meeting COVID-19 testing protocols throughout a spring season.
“We respect the fact that each institution is in a different place in its ability to practice, compete, and meet testing protocols,” he said. “Here in Montana we’re uniquely challenged in keeping our student-athletes safe and healthy, which is our top priority, while preparing and playing in deep winter conditions. This is nearly impossible to accomplish given the Big Sky Conference schedule timeline.
Vikings coach Bruce Barnum said in a release Portland State is considering playing a nonconference game or two in April.
Simultaneously, the Big Sky revealed that the remaining nine programs will take part in its spring season. Schedules will be modified in the near future, and there still will be a champion crowned.
The Vandals’ football team is back in Moscow, going through coronavirus protocols. Some players have begun optional activities, and official practices are set to begin Jan. 29.
“We will be moving forward with the updated conference schedule, which the Big Sky should be releasing in the coming days,”  Vandal spokesman Joe St. Pierre said. “We’re excited to compete for a Big Sky Championship.”
Idaho was scheduled to host Portland State on March 13, and the Vandals hoped to reclaim the 83-year-old Little Brown Stein traveling trophy April 3, when the Grizzlies were supposed to come to town.
Idaho will fill the two empty spots with either UC Davis, Cal Poly, Weber State or Northern Arizona.
The Vandals are set to open their season Feb. 27 at the Kibbie Dome against Northern Colorado. Potential fan attendance — vital for small conferences like the Big Sky — remains up in the air.
Almost 30 FCS teams already have opted out of the spring season, including the entire Ivy League.
The 16-team postseason is scheduled to begin in April. The national title game will be in May in Frisco, Texas.
Expansion Could Bring Football Back To The WAC
Football is returning in the Western Athletic Conference, this time at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level.
The league announced this week it would add four schools from the Southland Conference and one from the Big Sky to bring its membership to 13.
The five new members will join Dixie State and Tarleton State in a WAC football league. The WAC continues to seek an eighth football member that would bring league membership to 14 schools, but no timetable for that is set.
The new members are Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin from the Southland and Southern Utah from the Big Sky.
The four Southland schools are on track to become members in July, with Southern Utah joining in July 2022, assistant commissioner of media relations Chris Thompson said. He added it’s anticipating a six-team WAC football league will begin this fall.

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