WHITEFISH, Mont. — The Frontier Conference, which includes Eastern Oregon University for football, is revamping its 2021 spring football schedule — again.
Montana Tech and Montana Western recently announced they would opt out of the conference spring football season.
“As the pandemic has progressed, the health and safety of our student-athletes has always been our No. 1 priority,” Montana Western Director of Athletics Bill Wilson said in a press release. “As each week has passed, it became increasingly clear to us that moving forward with the conference football schedule was going to be very difficult at best. With scheduled games taking place as early as March, we had to make this very difficult decision.”
Tech and Western join Southern Oregon University in opting out of the modified spring schedule. Five Frontier Conference schools — EOU, College of Idaho, Carroll College, MSU-Northern and Rocky Mountain College — have committed to play a spring schedule.
“We certainly know that these tough decisions by the three member institutions have been well thought out,” Frontier Conference Commissioner Kent Paulson told MontanaSports.com. “The league is most appreciative that this decision has been made now so that the rest of the Frontier Conference member teams will be able to know what the modified schedule looks like. Teams can adjust travel plans, and coaches and student-athletes will have a definitive direction as we move forward in preparation for the upcoming conference season.”
The new schedule has the season starting March 13 and will go five weeks. Each team will get a bye week and will play a pair of home and away games, respectively. Eastern Oregon starts the season with a bye week and will not step on the gridiron until March 20, when it will host Carroll College at Community Stadium in La Grande.
The following week, EOU hits the road to face Rocky Mountain College on March 27. The second home game for the Mounties will be on April 3 when they host longtime rival College of Idaho for Senior Day. The final game of the regular season has EOU playing at MSU-Northern on April 10.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. local time for all games.
Meanwhile, the Cascade Collegiate Conference, which covers other EOU athletics, announced on Tuesday, Feb. 23, the Oregon Health Authority approved the league’s comprehensive return to play plan for high contact sports. CCC Commissioner Robert Cashell explained the plan covers basketball and wrestling at EOU.
Early this month, Oregon Gov. Kate Browns’ office reported it would accept return to play plans for college sports as well as high school activities, which the state prohibited during the pandemic.
The CCC in an online press release reported its revised plan includes strict daily wellness screening, twice per week testing for men’s and women’s basketball and stringent procedures for mitigating against the introduction and spread of COVID-19. The conference will use a combination of PCR/Antigen testing to comply with the approved plan.
The conference and the Council of Athletic Directors have been working on options for a final schedule. According to the CCC, the aim is to begin conference action as early as the weekend of March 19-20.
But fans of Mountaineer athletics will not be seeing games and events in person this spring. Cashell said the Cascade Collegiate Conference’s manual for returning to play prohibits spectators at games and events.
That is based upon the recommendation from athletic directors, he said, but with more counties seeing their risk levels drop for COVID-19, including Union County dropping from Oregon’s extreme risk to moderate effective Friday, Feb. 26, the conference is receiving some push to open events. Cashell said the council plans to discuss this when it meets Thursday.
EOU in an online press release stated it remains “committed to taking necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community,”and the includes closing its campus to everyone except students, faculty, staff, game officials and other necessary workers.
“It will not be possible to watch athletic events from anywhere on campus, including all of the athletic fields and courts,” according to EOU.
However, fans can watch most of the games and events at eousports.com.