mountain west sports cancelled

Maverik Stadium sits empty as seen on Monday afternoon. The Mountain West Conference has announced that it will indefinitely postpone all fall sports in response to COVID-19.

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For the first time in 77 years, Utah State will not be playing football during the fall.

That’s because the Mountain West Conference has postponed all of its fall sports due to health concerns related to COVID-19, a decision that was announced late Monday afternoon. Stadium’s Brett McMurphy was the first to report the impending news and it was confirmed to The Herald Journal before the MW made it official.

Various media outlets have reported, per sources, the Big 10 and Pac-12 will announce the same decision — at least in regard to college football — Tuesday.

“While we are disappointed about the postponement of our fall sports and the opportunities for our student-athletes to compete, the safety and well-being of those student-athletes has been, is and always will be our No. 1 priority,” said John Hartwell, USU’s director of athletics, in a statement. “This has been a stressful time for our student-athletes with all the uncertainties regarding their competitive seasons, and even though sports will not be played this fall, we will continue to provide the resources necessary for their mental health and well-being, and academic successes.”

In a release by the Mountain West, the conference said it “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.”

The Mountain West’s decision to postpone fall sports came five days after the league released its revised plan for football and the other sports contested during the upcoming fall semester — volleyball, women’s soccer and men’s and women’s cross country. Under that proposal, every football program in the MW was allowed to retain its eight-game league schedule, plus play two non-conference opponents.

However, it quickly became evident that those amended plans would not come to fruition. The dominoes started to fall last Wednesday when the University of Connecticut became the first FBS program to announce it wouldn’t be playing football this fall — or any fall sports for that matter.

The Mid-American Conference (MAC) announced its decision last Saturday to postpone all fall sports until next spring. Old Dominion, which competes in Conference USA, followed suit Monday.

Several FCS football conferences have also elected to move fall sports to the spring, including the Big Sky, which features regional teams Weber State, Southern Utah and Idaho State. USU and SUU were originally slated to square off Sept. 12 at Maverik Stadium.

“Since the start of the pandemic, our membership and staff have been working diligently to prepare for a fall sports season,” stated MW Commissioner Craig Thompson in Monday’s press release. “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.”

A myriad of prominent college football players made what appears to be a last-ditch effort to implore the powers to be to salvage the 2020 season. Clemson All-American quarterback Trevor Lawrence was instrumental in instituting the #WeWantToPlay movement, which surfaced Sunday on social media.

“People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play,” Lawrence posted on Twitter. “Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract covid19. Not to mention the players coming from situations that are not good for them/their future and having to go back to that. Football is a safe haven for so many people. We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football.”

This will be the first time since 1943 Utah State won’t play football in a calendar year. The Aggies were one of 100-plus teams that didn’t suit up that year due to World War II.

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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