LOGAN — The Mountain West is following the Mid-American Conference in punting fall sports to the spring.
The conference based in the Intermountain West, which includes Utah State, has voted to postpone the 2020 football season. The conference confirmed the decision as first reported by Stadium. The Athletic, ESPN and other outlets also reported the news Monday afternoon.
The decision comes just over 48 hours after the MAC became the first Football Bowl Subdivision conference to postpone the fall season. Both leagues will hope to restart the season in the spring, assuming the current infection rate of COVID-19 decreases.
The conference said in a news release that the board of directors “prioritized the physical and mental health and well-being of the conference’s student-athletes and overall campus communities” in making the decision.
The conference acknowledged the decision about a half-hour later, adding that the move also cancels all fall sports championships and events. The Mountain West also sponsors cross country, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball in the fall.
Non-championship fall competitions such as golf, baseball and softball were previously canceled.
“Since the start of the pandemic, our membership and staff have been working diligently to prepare for a fall sports season,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said. “We were hopeful we could carefully and responsibly conduct competition as originally scheduled with essential protocols in place. However, numerous external factors and unknowns outside our control made this difficult decision necessary.
“I fully understand the impact of this outcome on our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and staff who work so hard daily to play the sports we all love, and I share in their disappointment. We will continue to navigate this pandemic together, overcome the obstacles and return to intercollegiate athletics at the earliest opportunity.”
Utah State athletic director John Hartwell echoed his conference commissioner's statement.
"While we are disappointed about the postponement of our fall sports and the opportunities for our student-athletes to compete, the safety and well-being of those student-athletes has been, is and always will be our No. 1 priority," Hartwell said. "This has been a stressful time for our student-athletes with all the uncertainties regarding their competitive seasons, and even though sports will not be played this fall, we will continue to provide the resources necessary for their mental health and well-being, and academic successes."
The lone exception will be the Air Force Academy, which will be allowed to explore some competitions against the other military academies, Falcons athletic director Nathan Pine said.
“I’m pleased that Air Force will have the opportunity to continue to explore competitions against Army and Navy, if conditions allow, as we have similar physical missions across the service academies,” Pine said in a prepared statement.
The move comes as other conferences are contemplating the same decision, according to multiple reports, and while college athletes around the country have offered up their own voice to a #WeWantToPlay campaign.
“We came to the conclusion, We Want to Play, their message might have been conveyed differently but at the end of the day the message wasn't too far off from what Big Ten United wanted to promote," Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds told the AP early Monday morning. "Which is we all want to play sports this fall. Every athlete, I'm pretty sure, wants to play their sports. They just want to do so safely.”
Other reports indicate that Power Five leagues are considering a similar move, from the Pac-12 to the ACC. The Pac-12 presidents and chancellors are reportedly scheduled to meet Tuesday to vote on the fall season, according to ESPN. Early reports indicate that the SEC and ACC are more seriously considering playing, while the Big Ten and Pac-12 lean closer to postponing the fall season.
The Mountain West had just announced a plan late last week to play an eight-game conference schedule, as well as up to two nonconference games per institution. The plan hoped to preserve Air Force’s annual Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition with fellow military academies Navy and Army, as well as several rivalry series with independent BYU, such as the Wagon Wheel rivalry with Utah State and a rising rivalry with league power Boise State.
The conference had pushed the season to begin no earlier than the week ending Sept. 26. The Aggies’ season was previously scheduled to begin Oct. 2 at BYU.
With the previous delay, Utah State was scheduled to open fall training camp Monday, Aug. 24.
“With the start of the season being delayed, the best course of action for the well-being and protection of our student-athletes, is to push back the start of fall camp to August 24, which will allow us to continue to make up for lost time in our off-season training cycle,” Aggies coach Gary Andersen said in a news release last Thursday morning. “With our first game now being on Oct. 2, this schedule will give us one traditional week of camp before school starts. Although it is unconventional to be in school during fall camp, this calendar will allow for sufficient time to get ready for a season that starts in late September.”
The decision also effectively cancels or postpones three more games from BYU’s schedule: the aforementioned Oct. 2 game with Utah State, Nov. 6 at Boise State, and a Nov. 14 home game against San Diego State. With the decision, BYU’s schedule as it currently stands would only include three games.
Now they’ll push the season back even further, if reports remain true.
Utah State has self-reported 68 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 from within the campus community, citing only that they stem from faculty, staff and students “regardless of their location in the state or elsewhere.”
The university previously announced that the fall semester will begin Aug. 31 with a blend of in-person, online and hybrid face-to-face classes. Masks or face coverings will be required on campus, and all instruction will be shifted online after Thanksgiving break, or from Nov. 20 to Dec. 11. Finals will be held remotely Dec. 14-18.