SALT LAKE CITY – It looks like there will be no football at Weber State or SUU this fall after the presidents of the Big Sky Conference voted to cancel autumn football, according to some national reports.
The decision was made during a meeting of conference school presidents on Thursday afternoon and first reported by Stadium. The Oregonian reported that athletics principals at Big Sky were meeting at 5:30 p.m. to pass the decision by school principals.
Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen confirmed to the school student newspaper that the fall football season has been postponed, most likely in the spring. Sixteen of the Hornets’ 21st poverty sports compete in the Big Sky Conference, including football, which is the only sport the president has confirmed to be touched at the moment.
“We just do not think it̵7;s safe for our players right now,” Nelsen told the State Hornet.
No decision has been made on cross country, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball, according to the newspaper. But postponing Big Sky football would most likely drop the Football Championship Subdivision below the 50% turnout required to hold a play off of the season, as announced on Wednesday by the NCAA. If the reports are true including the Big Sky and a subsequent report that the Pioneer Football League has suspended the fall season, then the number of teams eligible for FCS play-offs will drop as little as 48.
There are 127 teams in the FCS, including the Ivy League, Mid-East Athletic Conference, Patriot League and Northeast Conference that had suspended the season, though not all of them are eligible to play off each year. The MEAC and Southwest Athletic Conference champions, for example, give up their automatic qualifying place to play in the celebration bowl that exposes historically black colleges and universities.
KSML is working to verify the extent of Big Sky cancellations.
The report comes as conferences and collegiate institutions across the US are working to understand how they will handle college sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Big Sky is made up of 13 universities located in Utah, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. According to Johns Hopkins University data, none of the states where Big Sky schools are located have COVID-19 levels below a 5% positivity rate. This is the level recommended by the World Health Organization to begin reopening aspects of the economy. Three of the schools are located within 10 states with the highest rates of COVID-19 positivity.
Earlier this week, a majority of the University of Idaho University football team – one of the conference schools – voted to lower the 2020 season, according to reports from the Stadium and ESPN. Idaho is one of the states with the highest rate of case positivity; the school athletics program had nine athletes tested positive for coronavirus out of 125 tested.
The Vandals’ 2020 schedule included a match with SUU on November 7th.
The decision not only affects Weber State and SUU, but also affects Dixie State in its first season as a Division I program. The Trailblazers football team is an independent FCS team and includes a schedule that includes four Big Sky opponents , including SUU on September 5 and Weber State on October 10. Games against Division II New New Mexico, Azusa Pacific, Western Colorado and FCS Drake were. previously canceled
Dixie State competes in the Western Athletic Conference for other sports, but had six football games and four volleyball games scheduled against Big Sky teams this fall. Four of the football games and two of the volleyball games had already been canceled ahead of the Big Sky presidents voting on Thursday afternoon.
The WAC, a non-soccer conference, which also includes the Utah Valley among its nine teams, had previously announced a delayed start to the season, at least on September 10 in women’s soccer and September 16 in men’s soccer, and women’s volleyball.
contributed: Sean Walker, KSML