Bobcat Athletic Complex Presser (copy)

Montana State athletic director Leon Costello prepares to speak at a press conference announcing a new clinic in the Bobcat Athletic Complex on July 27.

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The Big Sky Conference announced Friday the league’s football season will move to the spring semester due to the coronavirus pandemic.

News of this move had been reported after the conference's presidents council made the decision on Thursday.

Montana State athletic director Leon Costello said the decision gives clarity to MSU athletes and coaches, who have been in participating in workouts in Bozeman since June. The Bobcats also began practices Friday.

“This is an unprecedented time, and we appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through this process,” Costello said. “This decision allows our student-athletes, coaches, and staff the opportunity to prepare and play for a championship with the potential of maximizing fans in Bobcat Stadium. In honest conversations with our student-athletes, the points I heard most consistently were the importance of playing for a championship, playing in front of our fans and providing a safe environment.”

Costello said keeping Bobcat athletes, coaches and staff healthy – and managing the coronavirus as a community – remain the highest priority.

“Everything we do is based on the health and well-being of our student-athletes,” he said. “To accomplish our goals, we need to follow CDC protocols and county health directives. We need to wear a mask, wash our hands, avoid large social gatherings and follow protocols to stay healthy and get to the spring football season.

“Bobcat Athletics is part of a much bigger team, which is Montana State University. We need to do our part in helping promote campus safety by being leaders and following health and safety guidelines so we can enjoy the benefits of a full athletic and academic year. We appreciate the leadership provided by President (Waded) Cruzado and the entire MSU campus, along with our partners at Bozeman Health, which allow us to be in a position to play football in the spring.”

Non-conference play for Big Sky football programs is pending. Montana State has one non-conference game remaining against Dixie State on Sept. 19.

The league is exploring modified versions of a spring conference schedule. Big Sky commissioner Tom Wistrcill indicated that the league fully supports the NCAA shifting the FCS playoffs to the spring.

Conference schools may continue with permissible athletics activities while abiding by NCAA legislation, campus policies, and local and state regulations. The league continues to review the status of other fall sports, with a final determination coming at a later date.

Bobcat ticket and season information will be available sometime in August, according to Costello.

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Colton Pool can be reached at cpool@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.