Over Before It Begins: MW Postponed Football and Rest of Fall Sports

Inside The Seams

COLORADO SPRINGS – The Mountain West announced the indefinite postponement of all scheduled fall sports contests and MW championship events on Monday "in response to ongoing challenges with the effective mitigation and management of the COVID-19 virus in conjunction with athletic competition. 

The MW Board of Directors claimed the decision "prioritized the physical and mental health and well-being of the Conference’s student-athletes and overall campus communities in its decision – as it has done throughout the course of the pandemic."

The decision came a week after the MW had announced it would delay the start of the football season until the last Saturday in September, giving it more time to get a feel for what is transpiring. The MW athletic directors agreed on a plan in which the teams would play the normal eight-game conference schedule, but instead of four non-conference games team would be limited to no more than two.

The Board of Directors, led by Dr. Mary Papazian, President at San José State University, decided against waiting and seeing how things unfold in the coming weeks, making the Mountain West the second Division I conference to shutdown fall football. The Mid-America Conference announced earlier it would postpone the football season until the spring.

“The decision by the Mountain West Board of Directors to suspend the fall seasons was focused on the health and well-being of our student-athletes. I know it is disappointing for all of us to not have fall sports this season," Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman said in a statement issued by UW Sports Information. "Most of all it is disappointing to our student-athletes who have been working so hard in preparation for their fall seasons.

“Now that the decision has been made, we need to continue to focus on doing everything we can to help our student-athletes maintain their health and to help them continue to stay focused on their academics. This will be a period of adjustment for our young men and women, and we want them to know that we are here to provide them the support they need to get through this time until they can return to competition.”

In addition to football, the MW fall sports affected by the decision include men’s and women’s cross country, , women’s soccer and women’s volleyball (with the exception of the unique circumstances involved with the military service academies). Last week, the league announced that all fall competition in the sports of men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s indoor track and field, softball and baseball was canceled. At this time, there are ongoing discussions regarding the status of winter sports.

The Mountain West will begin to explore the feasibility of rescheduling fall sports competition, including the possibility of those sports competing in the spring, and develop options for consideration. Athletically-related activities and training opportunities for enrolled student-athletes will also be evaluated consistent with NCAA legislation and guidance, as well as state, local and campus parameters.

“Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our students, student-athletes, coaches, faculty, staff and overall communities,” said Dr. Papazian. “Through the hard work of many over the past several months, the Conference made every effort to create an opportunity for our student-athletes to compete, and we empathize with the disappointment this creates for everyone associated with our programs. The best interests of our students and student-athletes remain our focus and we will persist in our efforts to forge a viable and responsible path forward.”

MW Commissioner Craig Thompson accepted the decision of the board.

“Since the start of the pandemic, our membership and staff have been working diligently to prepare for a fall sports season,” said Thompson. “We were hopeful we could carefully and responsibly conduct competition as originally scheduled with essential protocols in place. However, numerous external factors and unknowns outside our control made this difficult decision necessary. 

"I fully understand the impact of this outcome on our student- athletes, coaches, administrators and staff who work so hard daily to play the sports we all love, and I share in their disappointment. We will continue to navigate this pandemic together, overcome the obstacles and return to intercollegiate athletics at the earliest opportunity."

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