The Big Sky Conference has postponed its football season to spring 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The conference includes Montana State University and the University of Montana.
The NCAA announced earlier this week that if more than 50% of the schools that compete in a sport did not compete in the regular season, the championship would be canceled. More than 70 of the 127 Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS, schools have now said they will not play in the fall.
The Big Sky is traditionally one of the strongest FCS conferences with Montana, Montana State and Eastern Washington. It said it will attempt an eight-game conference schedule in the spring, and is asking the NCAA to move the championships to the spring as well.
Meanwhile, the Frontier Conference has confirmed its National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, or NAIA, schools in Montana will be playing football this fall.
The league's five Montana football teams still planning to play an eight-game, round-robin schedule this fall. Practice is scheduled to start Aug. 15, with the first games being delayed to Sept. 19, the league said.
The announcement came on the same day the Big Sky Conference announcement.
The Frontier Conference will continue to closely monitor and adjust as necessary to protect the health and safety of all involved in the athletic programs, league officials said.
Three other schools that play football in the Frontier Conference — the College of Idaho, Eastern Oregon and Southern Oregon — have already moved their football seasons to the spring.
The NAIA football championships have been moved to the spring and the top teams in the Frontier Conference plan to participate in the playoffs at that time, Paulson said.
It’s possible that some of the Frontier Conference football games scheduled for this fall could end up being played in the spring, or that schools that compete this fall might schedule a couple more games in the spring prior to the NAIA playoffs, Paulson said.