The Mountain West is postponing its fall sports season because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the conference announced Monday.
“We were hopeful we could carefully and responsibly conduct competition as originally scheduled with essential protocols in place,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. “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.”
The Mountain West is the second FBS conference to postpone football and other fall sports, joining the Mid-American Conference, which voted to do so Saturday morning. A source said the postponement is indefinite, though the Mountain West will look to the spring as an option for football and other fall sports.
“I think it’s the unknowns,” Thompson told ESPN on Monday. “It still comes down to effective mitigation of all the risks they’re facing. For many weeks, our group has been saying we just don’t see a path forward. There are just too many unknowns medically. That is really the focus: the unknowns in the medical world.”
Thompson said the board has challenged the conference athletic leaders to look at spring models.
“Can you put the fall into the spring? Can you play all of those sports? What does football look like in the spring?” he said. “For months, we’ve all been saying nearly the same thing — last resort, only if we have to. Well, for the Mountain West, it’s last resort and only if we have to.”
Thompson said the status of the student-athletes on campus will vary by institution, depending on the classes.
“We’ve heard — and I think it’s accurate — that probably the safest place for a student-athlete could be on campus,” he said. “Supervision, medical screening. Yes, the anticipation is they are students, and they will put a backpack on and walk across campus, depending on which model each institution uses.”
Thompson said that on Wednesday, the Division I Council will discuss the eligibility status of any student-athletes who aren’t playing this season. He also said this doesn’t necessarily mean that men’s and women’s basketball will be postponed, even though those winter seasons technically start during the fall.
Last week, the Mountain West announced a football schedule model that included eight conference games and up to two nonleague games at each member’s discretion. The schedule was set to begin no earlier than the weekend of Sept. 26.
Sources told ESPN on Sunday that the vast majority of Big Ten presidents favor postponing the fall season, though the league had not taken an official vote as of Monday afternoon. Pac-12 presidents are set to meet Tuesday to discuss the most recent health information around the pandemic and possibly vote on the fall sports season.