The Great Northwest Athletic Conference became the latest college athletic league to suspend or cancel its fall sports season. The GNAC, an NCAA Division II conference, announced its suspension on Friday, which had a direct result on the Montana football schedule.
The Grizzlies were scheduled to open their 2020 football season with a home game against GNAC member Central Washington on Sept. 5 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
"That game has been canceled, leaving our football team with 10 scheduled games, five of which are in Missoula," UM athletic director Kent Haslam wrote in a letter to Griz fans. "At this point, we are still planning to play the remaining games. However, the landscape of college athletics is changing quickly."
In his letter, Haslam also noted that the Big Sky Conference Presidents' Council and athletic directors continue to discuss how best to navigate the fall sports seasons amid the coronavirus pandemic. Big Sky Conference commissioner Tom Wistrcill recently told MTN Sports a decision regarding the fall sports schedules would be made by the end of July.
The coronavirus pandemic and spiking COVID-19 cases across the country have added uncertainty to the college sports landscape. After the NCAA canceled its winter sports championships and spring sports seasons earlier this year, the fall sports calendar is still up in the air. The Ivy League became the first conference last week to announce the cancellation of its 2020 fall sports schedules. Other leagues have followed suit, while others have made minor adjustments. The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences have announced they're moving to conference-only slates, which canceled Montana State's scheduled game at Utah.
"We understand and acknowledge this uncertainty is frustrating, but we simply do not have the answers we all seek," Haslam wrote.
With the cancellation of the scheduled game against Central Washington, the Grizzlies, who went 10-4 last year and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the FCS Playoffs, are now scheduled to open their season Sept. 12 at Missouri State.
Haslam's entire letter to Griz fans is below.
Dear Griz fans,
I hope this message finds you and your families happy and healthy. Thank you for all the generous support of our student-athletes at the University of Montana.
As we enter the second half of July, I want to update you on the status of the fall sports season.
Today, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) announced the cancellation of fall sports for their member institutions. This includes Central Washington University, our scheduled opponent for September 5 in Missoula.
That game has been canceled, leaving our football team with 10 scheduled games, five of which are in Missoula. At this point, we are still planning to play the remaining games. However, the landscape of college athletics is changing quickly.
The Big Sky Conference President's Council and Athletic Directors are engaged in ongoing discussions about how to best navigate fall sports amongst the realities of COVID-19, with the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans as our top priority.
We understand and acknowledge this uncertainty is frustrating, but we simply do not have the answers we all seek. When we have additional information on the 2020 schedule and the impact of the changes to our ticket plans, we will share it with you. To receive the most up-to-date information, please make sure you have a current email address on file with the Adams Center Box Office. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to add or update your email address.
Please remember these are the 2020 football season ticket options as it relates to a change in the schedule:
- Donate the purchase of your 2020 season tickets to the Grizzly Scholarship Association to support student-athlete scholarships
- Credit the purchase of your 2020 season tickets to 2021
- Receive a refund on your purchase (refunds will be given at a later date this fall)
Remember that any contribution to the Grizzly Scholarship Association is an investment in the more than 300 student-athletes at the University of Montana. It helps make sure they have the tools and resources necessary to be successful in the classroom, in competition, and in the community. We ask you to please consider donating the value of your tickets to support these student-athletes.
Please wait to contact the box office about your options until we provide you with more information in the coming weeks. We appreciate your patience and understanding.
Grizzly Athletics will continue to follow guidance from the Governor's Office, the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, the Missoula County Health Department, and the University of Montana community as we navigate this unprecedented situation.
Please continue to follow all best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19, including wearing a mask, washing your hands with soap and water, practicing physical distancing, and staying home if you feel sick.
Thank you for your support and patience. I am proud to be a Griz.