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Covid causing more changes to local sports


August 7, 2020

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

An announcement on the cancellation of the 2020 Big Sky football season is expected today.

If there's going to be fall sports, everybody knows by now, they won't be your everyday normal fall sports - high school or college. That's a fact. And secondly, things are going to change on the fly, literally every day.

That's what Thursday was like in the world of local and Montana sports, and today will likely bring even more change.

Among things that happened Thursday, Havre High Activities Director Brian Kessler announced schedule changes, in particular, football and volleyball have been pushed back to the week of Sept. 7. Havre was set to open the football season at Billings Central Sept. 4, but now the Ponies won't play until their home-opener against Laurel Sept. 11. So for now, Havre, and the Eastern A will be playing a six-game conference season. In volleyball, the Blue Ponies won't begin competition until a Sept. 10 road trip to Malta. Havre will play a mostly conference schedule this season, and per the MHSA guidelines, volleyball is not permitted to have tirangulars or in-season tournaments like Havre usually does at the Electric City Classic in Great Falls or the Windy City Classic in Livingston.

So, with those changes, essentially, the Eastern A has, in fact moved to Tier II in the MHSA's plan to return to play, as Class AA announced they had done the same earlier today.

Also Thursday, the University of Providence announced that they would be going to remote learning only for the fall semester, which means their athletic teams would not be competing in fall sports. That decision coincided with a scheduled Frontier Conference meeting about the fate of the 2020 volleyball season. The NAIA has already moved its volleyball championships to the spring, but conferences could still play in the fall if they so choose. But, with Providence not competing, it's more than likely that the Frontier will move volleyball to the spring. An announcement from the league is likely to come today.

As of now, however, football, cross country and golf are still a go for this fall in the Frontier.

And lastly, early Thursday, rumors began to circulate on social media that the Big Sky Conference had voted to cancel the 2020 football season. The rumors came a day after the NCAA met about the fate of fall championships, including football and ultimately decided to allow each division to decide the fate of their fall championships. Almost immediately, NCAA DII and DIII canceled all fall championships, but the FCS, the level both Montana and Montana State play in, announced that, if 50 percent or more of the participating schools would play in the fall, there could be a playoff, and a national championships game.

The Big Sky, of course, is a huge piece to that happening, but Thursday, things turned pretty bleak, and while no formal decision has been announced, the Big Sky Council of Presidents did meet Thursday afternoon to consider a recommendation that the fall would see non-conference games, or no games at all in Big Sky football, with the possibility of playing a spring Big Sky schedule, and a possible FCS playoff as well.

According to the Idaho State Journal's Andrew Houghton, a source at Idaho State University said a formal announcement on the postponement of Big Sky football will come sometime today. For the Cats and Griz, that means, their annual showdown, which was set to be the 120th meeting between the two in November at Washington-Grizzly Stadium will not happen. The series has only had games not played in 1906, 1907, and during WWII from 1942-1945.

Not having UM and MSU football this fall will be devastating to the entire state of Montana, but especially to the economies of Missoula and Bozeman. Still, it's also likely that won't be the last of the changes or cancellations to the sporting landscape in the Treasure State.


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