BOZEMAN — When the Montana State men's and women's basketball teams tip off their 2020-21 seasons later this month, no spectators will be allowed in the stands due to the surging COVID-19 pandemic.
MSU athletic director Leon Costello announced the policy last week in a letter to Bobcat fans.
"I am as disappointed as anyone because Bobcat fans add so much excitement to our home game atmosphere and our teams feed off that energy," Costello wrote. "However, with the continuing rise in COVID-19 cases in our community, state and country, this precautionary step is necessary to allow our teams to compete safely."
Costello added the school will monitor the COVID-19 situation and he hopes spectators will eventually be allowed to return this season. But the recent virus surge has led the Gallatin City-County Health Department to implement stricter rules.
"I continue to encourage all Bobcat fans to continue to follow CDC and local guidelines as well as wear a mask, social distance and wash hands," Costello continued. "These simple steps will help reduce the spread of the virus, allow you to cheer on the Bobcats in person faster, and keep our communities safe."
The Bobcat men have yet to finalize their nonconference schedule publicly. Their Big Sky Conference opener is Dec. 31 against Southern Utah.
The defending regular-season champion MSU women were to play host to South Dakota School of Mines on Nov. 25, but the team recently canceled; the Bobcats, who play North Dakota on Dec. 6, are seeking another opponent.
The Montana men open conference play Dec. 3 at Southern Utah. The Griz are scheduled to open nonconference play on Nov. 28 at USC.
The first NCAA Division I games nationwide are set for Nov. 25, including Idaho State at Santa Clara and Adams State at Weber State in the Big Sky.
The Lady Griz open at Utah State on Nov. 25 and host Southern Utah on Dec. 3.