BUTTE — The Orediggers and Bulldogs will not be playing football this spring.
Montana Tech and the University of Montana Western both announced Tuesday that neither school would be participating in the postponed 2020 football season that was moved from fall 2020 to spring 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The schools cited the health and safety of the student athletes, the campuses and community, in addition to the importance of in-class learning, as to why they would forgo the Frontier Conference's shortened spring schedule.
“Things are going relatively well with respect to COVID, both on campus and in our community, and we want to continue to work to put these challenges behind us for good,” said Montana Tech athletic director Matt Stepan in the Orediggers' press release. “We have had a few setbacks with quarantines this winter due to position workouts and our players need to be in classes and labs to ensure they receive the educational experiences they expect as a student-athlete here at Montana Tech. Ensuring they can receive that education will continue to be our top priority.”
“As the pandemic has progressed, the health and safety of our student-athletes has always been our number one priority,” Montana Western Director of Athletics Bill Wilson said in the Bulldogs' press release. “As each week has passed, it became increasingly clear to us that moving forward with the conference football schedule was going to be very difficult at best. With scheduled games taking place as early as March, we had to make this very difficult decision.”
Western coach Ryan Nourse also cited the severe winter weather as another cause for concern.
“Geography, weather and facilities are not on our side at Western," Nourse said. “We have had a harsh winter here and to practice and play on a natural surface is not safe. Frozen synthetic turf is tough enough to play on, but not as challenging and potentially harmful as frozen dirt and grass.”
Tech and Western join Southern Oregon University as the three Frontier teams that have opted out of the spring season.
Montana Tech coach Kyle Samson declined an interview with The Montana Standard. A voicemail left for Montana Western was not returned.