MONTANA - Montana State University and University of Montana announced their football teams are withdrawing from the Big Sky Conference spring championship season.
Both UM and MSU were going to play in the Big Sky Conference's spring season for six games from Feb. 27 to April 10.
According to a release from the University of Montana, both teams will participate in an adjusted non-conference schedule instead. UM said they are both planning on creating a schedule that more closely resembles the regular spring practice period with two live games.
The decision was made by UM President Seth Bodner in conjunction with MSU President Waded Cruzado.
"Throughout the pandemic, we have made decisions in the best interest of the students. After much discussion with the athletic directors and coaches at both schools, we feel this decision allows our student-athletes to compete with adequate time to prepare," Bodnar said in UM's release.
"The safety of our students is always our No. 1 priority at Montana State," Cruzado said in the release. "This decision was difficult, but it will help ensure our student-athletes are as safe and healthy as possible when they do take to the field again. We are proud of their hard work and look forward to cheering them on."
UM Director of Athletics Kent Haslem and MSU Director of Athletics agreed with both presidents' decision.
"We know that student-athletes want to play and coaches certainly want to coach, but a reduced number of games in the spring will give our team a greater chance of success in the fall of 2021," Haslam said in the release. "This decision allows our student-athletes to compete in some way but gives them more time to prepare in a more controlled environment."
"The health and safety of our student-athletes is paramount," Costello said in the release. "The timeline for our football student-athletes to be physically prepared for the current conference schedule can't be guaranteed given our climate and related circumstances. By altering our spring season, we will be able to focus on their physical training during the appropriate conditions and proper recovery for the fall season."
Portland State is the third school that announced they are doing an adjusted spring season instead and Sacramento State announced they are not participating in a spring season at all.
"We want to compete this spring but we don't believe playing a complete conference schedule is in the best interest of our program," Montana head coach Bobby Hauck said in the release. "We feel like we have a championship-caliber team, and preparing to win a championship in Montana in February with no indoor facility would be difficult at best. I think this modified schedule allows our players to compete while keeping the focus on the fall of 2021."
"This has been a trying year for everyone," MSU head coach Jeff Choate said in the release. "We respect the fact that each institution is in a different place in its ability to practice, compete, and meet testing protocols. Here in Montana we're uniquely challenged in keeping our student-athletes safe and healthy, which is our top priority, while preparing and playing in deep winter conditions. This is nearly impossible to accomplish given the Big Sky Conference schedule timeline. Finding a way to compete in some fashion when circumstances allow remains important to me and our administration."
MSU's and UM's adjusted spring schedule is to be determined.