If Division I football is played in the coming months, it won’t be in Cheney or Moscow, Idaho.
Big Sky Conference presidents voted Thursday to not pursue a fall football season due to coronavirus concerns, postponing Eastern Washington and Idaho’s 2020 seasons to the spring of 2021.
The league announced its plans for a spring season on Friday morning.
“We recognize just how meaningful these opportunities are to the student-athletes, coaches, and staff throughout our conference, and empathize that they won’t be able to compete this fall for a Big Sky championship,” said Andy Feinstein, president of the University of Northern Colorado and chair of the Big Sky Presidents’ Council in a news release.
“We are eager to provide our football programs with that opportunity in the spring when it’s hopefully safer to be able to do so.”
Nonconference play in the spring is still pending.
According to a release from EWU, the conference schedule will be made up of eight games with play possibly starting as early as February.
“The Big Sky has begun exploring modified versions of a conference football schedule to be played in the spring and “fully supports the NCAA shifting the FCS championship to the spring,” the news release said.
Both EWU and Idaho were set to begin practice within the next week, though Spokane County’s social distancing mandates would have prevented EWU’s 120-plus players and staff from a typical gathering.
The conference is made up of 13 football-playing schools from eight states, including Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, California, Colorado, Utah and Arizona, each with its own reopening and social distance mandates.
EWU, Sacramento State UC Davis, Cal Poly and Portland State can’t have full practices, currently, due to local restrictions.
The conference also noted that the future of other fall sports is still under review.
Before Thursday’s‘s vote, seven of the country’s 13 FCS conferences opted out of a fall season and the status of a postseason wasn’t yet determined.
The NCAA Board of Governors announced Wednesday that if at least 50% of a division’s programs planned to pursue a fall season, it would sanction a postseason. The loss of Big Sky and Pioneer League this week puts the number of FCS teams below that threshold.
NCAA Divisions II and III elected to not pursue fall postseason competition.
EWU’s athletics budget took a major blow last week when its season opener at Florida – a guarantee game worth $750,000 – was canceled after the Southeastern Conference switched to a conference-only schedule.
The Eagles were then slated to host Western Illinois in a Sept. 12 home opener at Roos Field. Idaho was set to face Temple on the road that day.
EWU is ranked in several FCS preseason Top 25 polls and quarterback Eric Barriere was recently named the Big Sky Conference’s preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
EWU was ranked fourth in both preseason Big Sky coaches and media polls and Idaho was ranked eighth and ninth, respectively.