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Big Sky Conference allows schools to make decision on when to resume sports

UPDATED: Mon., May 11, 2020

Big Sky Conference officials won’t dictate when member schools like Eastern Washington and Idaho can resume play.

They’re letting the schools decide.

The league voted Monday to give the institutions the decision when to start sports in 2020-2021, so long as it aligns with local laws and NCAA rules amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With eight states having schools in the Big Sky – some with different quarantine mandates and phasing plans than others – the league has put much of the power in the hands of the schools.

“As we prepare to enter a year that surely will be unlike any other, I applaud the foresight our leadership has shown in allowing our institutions to make their own decisions within NCAA rules about when it’s appropriate to resume practice and competition on their own campuses,” Big Sky commissioner Tom Wistrcill said. “The Big Sky is well-positioned to move forward based on the practical and thoughtful adjustments our membership approved to control expenses while increasing their own flexibility.”

The situation remains fluid, Wistrcill said.

“When can we get games going, when can we start to play, and then under what rules can we do that?” Wistrcill said in a conference video chat. “Is it going to be limited fans, is it going to be only certain schools within certain states playing each other? We just don’t know; nobody has a crystal ball in this. But we’re providing our schools the maximum amount of flexibility to give our student-athletes an opportunity to compete.”

The Big Sky also announced a few coronavirus-induced cost-saving modifications for several sports this upcoming season, including:

• The cancellation of the Big Sky Football Kickoff at the Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane, a two-day media event for the league’s head coaches and top players, originally slated for July 26-27. The event will be done virtually this summer.

• Volleyball, which will play a 16-match conference schedule. The top four teams advance to the Big Sky Tournament to be held at 2019 league champion Northern Colorado. To cut back on travel costs, each school’s conference schedule features eight opponents to be played on consecutive days at the same location.

• Women’s soccer will not have a conference tournament. The team with the most points at the end of a nine-game regular season will be the Big Sky’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament.

• The 2021 Big Sky Conference softball tournament, hosted by 2019 champion Weber State, will feature four teams, not the usual six.

• Idaho State will host the 2021 Big Sky Indoor championships due to Pocatello’s central location to member schools.

• Men’s and women’s tennis will be arranged to a divisional format, with the two top two teams from each division advancing to a four-team Big Sky Tournament.

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