BILLINGS — The suspension of Montana's spring high school sports season has been extended through April 24, the Montana High School Association announced Thursday.
Spring sports will be canceled if in-person school instruction does not resume by May 4, according to MHSA executive director Mark Beckman. On Tuesday, Gov. Steve Bullock pushed back Montana's K-12 school closure and stay-at-home order to April 24 due to the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
"There's not much time left in the spring sports season if you go any farther than being able to start on May 4," Beckman told 406mtsports.com Thursday. "You have schools that are getting out on the third, fourth week of May, plus they have a lot going on if they do get back into school to try to balance the in-person instruction with all of that."
The MHSA Executive Board discussed several options, including cancellation, on a conference call Thursday morning, Beckman said. Pushing the spring season into the summer wasn't strongly considered because of school being out of session and conflicts with American Legion baseball and other activities, he added.
"The Board was looking at, 'Let's see if things change and if there are different directions from the governor or state health,'" Beckman said. "If there are, then we'll look to some adjusted formats. But if we don't get back by May 4, then that would be it."
If the spring sports season does start, softball, tennis and track and field programs will be required to conduct five practices before games or meets. The normal two practices will be required for golf teams before they can compete in tournaments.
The MHSA will adjust postseason formats if it's able to resume the spring season, which has been indefinitely suspended since March 16.
Montana is one of 29 states that has suspended high school spring sports as of Thursday. Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri and Pennsylvania canceled their seasons Thursday. Oregon canceled on Wednesday, and Wyoming made it official Tuesday.
Beckman believes that no Montana high school sports season has been canceled since World War II, which ended in 1945. MHSA archives show four years in which a boys track season was not played: 1917 (World War I), 1943, 1944 and 1945. Boys basketball seasons were held in each of those years except 1943. Football games and championships were scrapped in 1918 because of the Spanish flu epidemic, and World War II forced the cancellation of the 1942 football season.
Montana's number of confirmed COVID-19 cases exceeded 350 on Thursday.