BOZEMAN — The Big Sky Conference’s Presidents’ Council voted Monday to allow its members to make institutional decisions in accordance with NCAA policies regarding when athletes will resume practice and competition.
The Presidents’ Council also approved several changes to a number of the Big Sky Conference schedules and championships for the 2020-21 academic year with hopes of maintaining a high-quality experience while providing significant cost savings for member institutions.
“As we prepare to enter a year that surely will be unlike any other, I applaud the foresight our leadership has shown in allowing our institutions to make their own decisions within NCAA rules about when it’s appropriate to resume practice and competition on their own campuses,” Big Sky commissioner Tom Wistrcill said. “Everyone involved within our governance process — our SAAC, ADs, SWAs, FARs, Presidents, coaches, and conference staff — has risen to the challenge presented by these unprecedented circumstances. The Big Sky is well-positioned to move forward based on the practical and thoughtful adjustments our membership approved to control expenses while increasing their own flexibility.”
The changes to the championships and schedules, which were approved for the 2020-21 academic year only, impact the following sports:
• Volleyball will play a 16-match regular season conference schedule, with the top four teams advancing to the conference’s postseason tournament to be held at defending champion Northern Colorado, which earned that honor by winning the 2019 regular season. Each school’s conference slate will feature eight opponents to be played on consecutive days at the same location.
• Women’s soccer will stage its usual nine-game regular season, at the end of which the team with the most points (or, if necessary, the team that earns the tiebreaker) will be designated as the Big Sky’s automatic qualifier to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
• For the second consecutive year, Idaho State will serve as the site for the 2021 indoor track and field championships, allowing more schools to bus their teams to this event. Weber State, which was scheduled to host the 2020 outdoor championships, will retain its turn in the rotation and host the 2021 event.
• Softball will play its expected 18-game regular season conference schedule, after which a four-team conference championship will be staged at Weber State, which was the 2019 (and thus is still the defending) champion.
• Men’s and women’s tennis will compete in a divisional schedule format, with the top two teams from each of the two divisions advancing to a four-team conference championship at a single site to be determined.
• The annual football kickoff event held the last two years in Spokane, Washington, will be conducted remotely this summer as a virtual event. More information will be announced in the coming weeks to the media and fans about how to participate and watch.
The conference also is implementing additional adjustments to other operational expenses. Modifications to additional sports will be determined in the coming weeks following the conference’s annual spring meetings, which will be held remotely during the first week of June.
In addition, the league is working through its policies for the resocialization of college sports in accordance with the NCAA as well as the local governments in the eight states that comprise the Big Sky Conference.