Eastern Washington University will suspend all fall sports until further notice out of safety concerns in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Eastern Associate Vice President/Director of Athletics Lynn Hickey announced Monday (Aug. 10).
The decision comes on the heels of last Friday’s announcement by the Big Sky Conference to postpone the league’s football schedule to the winter/spring. The league had already announced the suspension of non-conference play for league schools in the other sports, but no Big Sky edict has been made as of yet in terms of re-scheduling or cancellations.
The Eagles had no firm start dates for practices to begin, but will continue off-season workouts in accordance with all NCAA, federal, state, local and EWU mandates regarding social distancing, wearing of masks and disclosure of symptoms. Eastern continues to work on policies and procedures regarding Covid-19 testing.
“We have a significant commitment to the safety and well-being of our student-athletes,” said Hickey. “We didn’t take this decision lightly and feel for all of those who are impacted. But we didn’t foresee the situation improving significantly in the coming weeks for us to safely begin practices and competition. We’ll await further information and decisions to determine our next steps.”
After the Big Sky’s decision in July to delay fall sports, Eastern’s soccer schedule was set to begin Oct. 2 on the road and Oct. 9 at home. Volleyball was also set to open on the road on Sept. 24 and then play at home on Oct. 1. Cross Country had its home meet on Sept. 1 canceled, and was expected to begin its season on Sept. 18.
Tennis and golf customarily have the majority of their seasons in the spring, but have a non-traditional season in the fall. Neither of those sports had announced any scheduled competitions for the fall because of Covid-19.
Non-conference play for the conference’s football programs was listed as “still pending further review” by the league as the result of last Friday’s announcement. Eastern had home non-conference games scheduled on Sept. 12 versus Western Illinois and Sept. 19 against Northern Arizona, and are working with those schools to re-schedule as a result of the Big Sky’s decision, as well as that made by EWU on Monday.
Previous Recent Decisions as a Result of the Covid-19 Pandemic . . .
The Big Sky Conference announced Aug. 7 that all league schools – including Eastern — will move to an eight-game football schedule in early 2021. Presumably, the schedule could start as early as February.
The league’s athletic directors reached that decision two days earlier, and it was approved by the Big Sky’s Presidents’ Council on Aug. 6. Non-conference play for the conference’s football programs is still pending further review. Click here for the league’s announcement.
The Big Sky’s move also all but means that the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision will not have its playoffs in the fall, but could potentially move them to the spring. On Aug. 5, the NCAA announced that if “50 percent or more of eligible teams in a particular sport in a division cancel their fall season, there will be no fall NCAA championship in that sport in that division.”
Furthermore, the NCAA said that “if fall sports championships are postponed in any division, a decision to conduct that championship at a later date will be based upon the scientific data available at that time regarding Covid-19, along with other considerations.” Click here for a listing of the NCAA’s decisions and requirements listed in Aug. 5 news release.
In its news release, the Big Sky said it has begun exploring modified versions of a conference football schedule to be played in the spring and fully supports the NCAA shifting the FCS championship to the spring.
The 2020 schedule was going to be Eastern’s best in school history, featuring home games versus Montana, Montana State, Idaho and two-time defending Big Sky Conference champion Weber State. There is no indication as of yet whether or not the fall schedule will carry over to the spring, or if a more regionalized schedule will be utilized.
The Eagles were scheduled to open Big Sky Conference play at Southern Utah on Sept. 26, followed by its conference home opener versus Montana on Oct. 3.
Once the fall and spring schedules are determined, Eastern football season ticket holders will be contacted with their options. The university expects to refund/reduce the price fans paid if the number of home games is reduced. For information and a list of frequently asked questions, fans can go to http://goeags.com/FBSpring21.
Previously, Eastern’s game at the University of Florida was canceled July 30 as the result of the Southeastern Conference electing to not play non-conference games.
In addition, the league announced in July that the start of other sports will be delayed until Sept. 18 (Sept. 14 for women’s golf). The announcement indicated that the possibility of canceling or postponing those sports would be discussed at a later date. Eastern competes in the fall in women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country, plus golf and tennis typically schedule events as well.