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Frontier announces "Return to Play" plan


Last updated 11/18/2020 at 9:28am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Peyton Kehr, middle, is guarded by a pair of Rocky Mountain College defenders during a Frontier Conference women's basketball game last fall in Havre. Basketball is the first major sport set to begin Frontier play during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the league kicking off a 20-game season next month. Northern will open the season with road games at Rocky Dec. 6-5. The Frontier announced some of its return to play policies last week.

Though there have been a handful of basketball games, the Frontier Conference' winter sports seasons really haven't gotten a full head of steam. But, when they do, this winter will be unlike any before as basketball and wrestling season will be combined with volleyball and eventually football.

That's because COVID-19 forced the postponement of the 2020 Frontier Conference football and volleyball seasons. Now though, all of those sports may get their chance, with basketball up first. The league will play one weekend worth of hoops games before Christmas, then pick things up for good after New Year's.

With so much yet to come, and with a surge in coronavirus in Montana happening right now, the Frontier approved, and announced a "Return to Play" Protocol last Friday.

"The document was authored by the league's athletic directors and athletic trainers," conference Commissioner Kent Paulson said. "The document was designed to supplement and further detail the health protocols that have been in place for the fall sports. By following these health protocols through the support of contest administration and medical training staffs, the league was able to successfully complete play in both cross-country and golf."

While there was plenty in the return to play plan, one of the things that stuck out the most is, there will be no fans at Frontier Conference sporting events through Dec. 31. And that is a league-wide decision. Of course, there will only be a handful of games for basketball teams around the league before the end of December, but that decision could also be a permanent one.

At this time, the Frontier Conference institutions will not have spectators at hosted events through Dec. 31. This decision will be evaluated by each institution at a later point in time as conditions change, the policy noted.

Also in the policy are, weekly COVID-19 testing of all in-season student-athletes followed by documented verification that will be communicated between medical training staffs of opposing schools in a given athletic contest. Mandatory health screening will be required at each of our league's athletic facilities.

In order to decrease the transmission of COVID-19 the Frontier Conference will require that each institution work with local health authorities to follow established contact tracing protocols. Additional safety precautions will be instituted regarding facilities, suggested health sanitations and face coverings. All local and state health authorities will be regularly consulted at our various institutional locations, the document continued.

As for Northern, the MSU-N men's and women's basketball teams currently don't have any announced home games before Dec. 31. The Lights and Skylights play their only Frontier games that month on the road at Rocky Mountain College. Still, with the announcement of the Frontier's plan, the league believes all its schools can safely move forward, not only with the traditional winter sports, but also the sports that were postponed in the fall.

"The safety of our league's student-athletes, coaches and staffs will always be first and foremost on our list of priorities," Paulson said. "By continuing to follow our proven successful health protocols it is the goal that the upcoming sports of basketball, indoor track and field, volleyball and football can be successfully carried out to a positive completion."


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