MSUB SPORTS – After a Great Northwest Athletic Conference CEO Board conference call on Friday, Montana State University Billings announced that it will not compete in a conference schedule in the sports of men’s and women’s basketball during the 2020-21 season due to ongoing concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
MSUB was in the majority with its decision, as six of the 10 member schools in the conference elected not to compete in a conference schedule for men’s and women’s basketball. Along with MSUB, the University of Alaska Anchorage, Central Washington University, Simon Fraser University, Western Oregon University, and Western Washington University decided against a conference schedule. The University of Alaska Fairbanks, Northwest Nazarene University, Saint Martin’s University, and Seattle Pacific University indicated they intend to compete in a modified conference schedule.
MSUB, along with the other five conference members who will not compete in a conference schedule, will have the ability to independently schedule games against other institutions, so long as the competitions adhere to local COVID-19 health and safety protocols, and NCAA COVID-19 protocols including testing requirements. Per GNAC mandate (Oct. 2, 2020), no outside competition is allowed for any conference member in any sport before the date of Jan. 7, 2021.
“Along with five of our fellow GNAC institutions, MSUB has made the decision to not compete in conference schedules for men’s and women’s basketball due to health and safety concerns surrounding coronavirus,” said MSUB Chancellor Rolf Groseth. “It was a difficult decision to make and we understand that it’s frustrating. It is frustrating to us, our student-athletes, their families, and our community, but under our current circumstances, it is the best decision we can make to keep all involved healthy and safe. We remain a committed GNAC member and look forward to competing in all sports in the future.”
“It is a gut-wrenching decision, but the health and safety of our student-athletes, our campus community, the Billings community, as well as the families of all those involved comes first,” said MSUB Athletic Director Krista Montague. “We remain committed to supporting our student-athletes through this challenging and uncertain time. We would also like to thank our medical professionals, athletic trainers, coaches, and staff, who have worked diligently towards ensuring a safe return to competition since the pandemic began in March.”
Fall sports at MSUB, which include men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, and men’s and women’s cross country, will not participate in a conference or championship schedule during the spring of 2021. Fall sports will proceed with their regularly-scheduled, countable athletically related activities (CARA) hours, which includes team practices and non-conference games against outside competition, during the spring of 2021. The NCAA previously announced the cancelation of all fall sport championships, removing the possibility for any postseason play for any fall sports.
As of Friday, MSUB’s spring sports, which could begin competition schedules as early as February, remain on track to compete. Spring sports at MSUB include baseball, softball, men’s and women’s track and field, women’s triathlon, and men’s and women’s golf.
MSUB has successfully managed to maintain an open campus and in-person classes throughout the fall semester due to careful strategic planning this summer followed by the implementation of rigorous health and safety protocols. As a result of the careful planning, MSUB employs their own contact tracing team trained by RiverStone Health, who can start contact tracing almost immediately once notified of a positive test result from a campus community member. MSUB has created a Voluntary COVID-19 Self-Reporting Form [msubillings.edu] and asks members of the MSUB community to anonymously complete the online form if they have tested positive for COVID-19 in order to help the university contact trace immediately so those identified as close contacts are moved into quarantine quickly, thus reducing the spread of COVID-19 on campus. This has been very successful, and data collected from the Voluntary COVID-19 Self-Reporting Form shows that positive cases associated with MSUB students, staff, and faculty come from off-campus activities; not from activities on-campus. The plans announced today align with the university’s goal of keeping the campus community healthy and safe and with the recent Health Officer Order from RiverStone Health limiting gatherings. Yellowstone County is also currently experiencing growing COVID-19 rates, making competition and travel unsafe.
For additional information regarding MSUB sports as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic, including the latest updates from the GNAC and the NCAA, visit the COVID-19 resource page online here [msubillings.edu].