Big Sky Conference supports NCAA eligibility relief, expects spring sports decision in coming days

Big Sky Conference supports NCAA eligibility relief, expects spring sports decision in coming days

Griz vs. Idaho State March 30, 2019

The Montana Grizzlies softball team opened Big Sky Conference play with a 3-2 loss and a 6-1 loss to Idaho State in a doubleheader on Saturday at Grizzly Softball Field.

MISSOULA — On a Monday afternoon media conference call, Big Sky Conference commissioner Tom Wistrcill said a decision on spring sports in the league will be coming soon.

Currently, the NCAA has canceled all spring championships due to novel coronavirus. The Big Sky has teams that participate in softball, outdoor track and field, golf and tennis, all of which have spring seasons.

“The issue right now is, what can we do about any spring competition, obviously during the summer there is no competition, but nonetheless the schools do open up for summer school," Wistrcill said. "We have many student athletes that are there in the summer That would be an issue we would have to discuss as well.

"I think the immediate decision for us over the next 24 to 48 hours is what do we do with the remaining spring sports season and practice for the spring sports.”

Individual conferences have begun to cancel their individual spring sports season, but the decision ultimately belongs to the school and conferences themselves, not the NCAA.

Montana announced on Monday afternoon that it was suspending team practices and events for two weeks. It also canceled the annual Grizzly spring football game.

The NAIA has also announced it will cancel all spring sports. The NCAA Division-II GNAC Conference and the NJCAA have also said they are canceling spring athletics. 

While details are not currently available and still being worked out, spring NCAA athletes will get eligibility relief, though what form exactly that will take is yet to be determined.

"Council leadership agreed that eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division I student-athletes who participated in spring sports," the NCAA said in a release on March 13. "Details of eligibility relief will be finalized at a later time. Additional issues with NCAA rules must be addressed, and appropriate governance bodies will work through those in the coming days and weeks."

Wistrcill said there a variety of issues to still work around, including whether there will be scholarship limits, how financial aid will be affected, team size limits and a variety of other factors.

A final decision on how the eligibility relief will be rolled out is not expected until later this year.

"We are certainly in favor of providing opportunities to our student athletes, especially those ones that never had a chance to get their season started," he said. "I feel for them. Many of them, not just the seniors, work so hard and have it taken away so, I’m glad we’re going to have that in place ... our stance is that we’re in favor of getting a waiver for those student-athletes if they want to come back and compete, they should wish to do so.”

Jordan Hansen covers a bunch of stuff for the Missoulian and 406 Sports. Shout at him on Twitter @jordyhansen or shoot him an email at Jordan.Hansen@406mtsports.com

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