Men's soccer

Montana State Billings men's soccer players line up for the national anthem prior to a game on Aug. 23, 2019.

BILLINGS — The Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference is the latest league to postpone college sports due to coronavirus.

The GNAC announced in a press release Friday that its CEO Board has suspended all competition through November. The league said it will monitor developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic and make a decision by Oct. 15 regarding the status of a potential resumption of events after Nov. 30.

Montana State Billings is a member of the GNAC. According to an MSUB press release, all 16 of the Yellowjackets' men’s and women’s varsity sports will halt competition through Nov. 30 in accordance with the conference’s announcement.

MSUB offers soccer, volleyball, cross country, golf and triathlon in the fall. The Yellowjackets' basketball teams will now not be able to play games prior to Nov. 30, either.

“The decision to suspend fall sports is incredibly disheartening and disappointing for all of us, however the primary concern surrounding everything we do is the well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, and staff,” MSUB athletic director Krista Montague said in a statement.

“It is a sad and gut-wrenching decision, however an incredible amount of thought and consideration went into it. We support the decision and believe it is in the best interest of all involved.”

Big Sky Conference football teams Montana and Idaho are affected by this decision, as well: The Grizzlies' Week 1 game against GNAC member Central Washington is now canceled, as is Idaho's opener against Western Oregon.

GNAC commissioner Dave Haglund echoed Montague's sentiments in a release issued by the league, saying the decision was made in the best interest of the student-athletes.

“This was not a decision taken lightly but one the Board believes is in the best interests of student-athletes and staff,” Haglund said. “There is no greater priority than the health and well-being of our student-athletes and this action is reflective of the GNAC’s commitment to this prevailing principle.

“We understand that many student-athletes will be disappointed and saddened by this news, particularly our seniors, and we have profound empathy for everyone affected by this decision, including non-conference opponents. We can only ask for their thoughtful understanding during these challenging and unprecedented times.”

The GNAC said each conference member will have institutional autonomy regarding organized practice activities.

Haglund said conference governance groups have already engaged in active discussions for providing meaningful seasons of competition for the conference’s fall championship sports, including the feasibility of playing in the spring.

The announcement comes on the heels of several leagues suspending fall sports across different levels of competition, including NCAA Division I conferences like the Colonial Athletic Association, the Ivy League, Patriot League and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Email Greg Rachac at Greg.Rachac@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @gregrachac

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