COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. When the Mountain West Conference shut down athletic activities effective March 26 in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, they used the dreaded word "indefinitely." With the local and national restrictions lasting far past the few weeks initially estimated, many have waited anxiously for a sign that their teams would be taking the fields and courts come fall.

The first major glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel was the University of Wyoming's announcement to allow some athletes to return to campus beginning June 1.

At the Mountain West Board of Directors virtual spring meeting that concluded Monday, many of the important decisions made provide further signs of hope. They officially lifted the indefinite suspension of in-person activities, made plans for adjusted tournament formats for certain sports, and set up a medical advisory group to determine the best practices as programs across the Mountain West prepare for the return of college sports.

UW's athletics department provided a full description of the decisions and findings in the following press release.

From the University of Wyoming:

The Mountain West Board of Directors (BOD) wrapped up its virtual spring meeting June 1, during which it took action on several items integral to the business of the Conference and national issues in intercollegiate athletics. The BOD also met jointly with the MW Directors of Athletics for a portion of the meeting. Among the key topics addressed by the Board, which is comprised of the Presidents from the 12 football-playing Conference member institutions, were the following:

  • The Mountain West removed its indefinite suspension of in-person team athletic activities which had been in place since March 26. The MW will allow voluntary in-person athletic workouts for all sports beginning June 1. Each MW institution will have the discretion to make their determination within state, local, NCAA and campus guidelines.
  • Discussed the MW Health and Safety Advisory Group comprised of medical professionals and senior level administrators representing all 12 Mountain West football-playing universities. The advisory group’s mission is to help provide guidance as the league prepares for the return of athletics activities, including team gatherings, practices, conditioning and competition.

  Members of the MW Health & Safety Advisory Group:

  • Lt. Col. Joel Dixon, Associate Athletic Director of Sports Medicine, Air Force
  • Dr. Katheryn Hughes, Reintegration Committee Medical Advisor, Boise State
  • Terry DeZeeuw, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Health and Performance, Colorado State
  • Dr. Jean Linder, Physician, Fresno State
  • Lyn Nakagawa, Head Athletic Trainer, Hawai‘i
  • Dr. Tony Islas, Head Team Physician, Nevada
  • Dr. Andy Veitch, Head Team Physician, New Mexico
  • Patrick Spieldenner, Associate AD Athletic Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer, San Diego State
  • Dr. Michael Henehan, Lead Team Physician, San José State
  • Dr. Wade Gaal, Team Doctor/Sport Medicine Specialist, UNLV
  • Mike Williams, Head Athletic Trainer, Utah State
  • Matt Whisenant, Deputy Director of Athletics, Wyoming

“Given the unique circumstances in the locales of our campuses, it was the desire of the Board of Directors to provide member institutions maximum flexibility to engage in the return of athletics activities in accordance with state, local, NCAA and campus guidelines,” said Dr. Noelle Cockett, President at Utah State University and Chair of the MW Board of Directors. “The Mountain West Health and Safety Advisory Group will assist us in those efforts as we move from conditioning to practice and ultimately competition.”

  • Approved several cost-containment measures brought forward by the MW Directors of Athletics addressing the financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures identified options that can realize savings in both the Mountain West operating budget and within individual institutional athletics department budgets. All measures are designed exclusively for the 2020-21 academic year. Evaluation will be ongoing to determine if revisions are necessary in real time and/or moving forward.

The package below includes league-wide agreement on scheduling and championships elements, along with institutional discretion regarding other facets of the competitive environment depending upon unique circumstances within each athletic department and each sport program.
Cost-Containment Measures:

  • Reduce Conference office operating budget by 18 percent and diminish staff travel to regular-season contests, selected conventions and appropriate professional development seminars. Conference staff salaries will also be frozen and open positions will not be immediately replaced.
  • Freeze officiating fees in all sports.
  • Move in-person coaches’ meetings and the Conference’s 2020 spring and fall, and the 2021 spring meetings, to virtual events.
  • Adjust in-person football and basketball media days to virtual events.
  • Allow institutions to schedule second non-Division I opponent in men’s basketball (replacing an RPI of 250 or worse).
  • Utilize a 16-match modified double-round robin schedule in women’s volleyball.
  • Reduce conference baseball and softball series from three days to two (double-header and single game).
  • Eliminate the baseball, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s soccer tournaments.
  • Host swimming championship and diving championship at separate venues on MW campuses over three days.
  • Reduce men’s and women’s indoor track & field and men’s and women’s golf tournaments from three days to two, and men’s and women’s outdoor track & field from four to three days.

“The Mountain West Board of Directors and Directors of Athletics have collaborated for the past several weeks developing potential options to address the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said MW Commissioner Craig Thompson. “The focus of this effort has been to protect opportunities for student-athletes and to maintain the intercollegiate athletics offerings at each member institution which are so integral to the fabric of the respective campuses. These unprecedented times demand creative solutions and great work has been done at the institutional level and collectively as a Conference.” 

  • Members of the Mountain West Board of Directors Executive Committee were named for 2020-22. San José State University President Dr. Mary Papazian will chair the BOD during the next two academic years. She will be joined by outgoing chair Dr. Noelle Cockett, President at Utah State University and vice chair, Dr. Garnett Stokes, President at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Joseph Castro is the MW representative to the College Football Playoff Board of Managers; Papazian remains the MW’s representative to the NCAA Board of Directors and Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria continues his role as the MW representative to the NCAA Presidential Forum.

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