The Great Northwest Athletic Conference announced Friday that it plans to move forward with modified conference-only men’s and women’s basketball schedules beginning in January.
Four teams – Alaska Fairbanks, Northwest Nazarene, Saint Martin’s and Seattle Pacific – have indicated that they will participate in the 2021 season. Six institutions have decided that they will not participate in the conference basketball season for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Institutions not competing in the GNAC season are Alaska Anchorage, Central Washington, Montana State Billings, Simon Fraser, Western Oregon and Western Washington.
“We are disappointed we will not be participating in the GNAC basketball season this year. The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and University community continue to be our top priority and we believe that the risk of traveling to multiple cities to play an indoor, high contact sport is too high at this time,” said WOU interim director of athletics Randi Lydum. “Our teams have been training throughout the fall with the hope that conditions related to COVID-19 would improve this winter. Our student-athletes will continue to have access to training facilities, coaching and support staff, and athletic training services. We plan to continue modified practice throughout the winter and spring. We are hopeful that our spring sport teams will have the opportunity to compete for GNAC and NCAA Championship opportunities in the upcoming months.”
The new schedules are being revised to minimize travel and emphasize the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and staff. Teams will play games on consecutive days against the same opponent in the same location, with games played on Fridays and Saturdays. The men’s and women’s schedules will mirror each other, with two competing schools playing each other on the same dates at opposite locations.
Teams will comply with NCAA, state and local health protocols, including weekly COVID testing, mask-wearing by participants not actively on the court and isolation and quarantine in the event of positive tests or exposure. Additionally, the conference agreed that all competitions will be played without spectators.
The modified conference-only schedules are expected to be finalized in the next two weeks. Games will begin no earlier than Jan. 7. Teams not participating in the GNAC season will be allowed institutional autonomy to conduct countable athletically-related activities within NCAA regulations. Those teams will be allowed to seek non-conference competition within applicable health guidelines, including games against other GNAC institutions that will not compete in the conference season. Those competitions may not begin before Jan. 7. Decisions affirming the modified conference basketball season were approved by the conference’s CEO Board.
“The GNAC’s reformatted schedule has been designed to reduce travel, promote health and safety, and foster conditions that enable student-athletes to return to intercollegiate competition safely,” said GNAC commissioner Dave Haglund. “We support each conference member and the decisions that have been made regarding the upcoming basketball season. As it has done since the onset of the pandemic, the GNAC leadership will continue to evaluate and monitor conditions related to the coronavirus and make decisions as warranted.”
The GNAC Management Council and CEO Board continue to look at the feasibility of the spring seasons for baseball, softball, outdoor track and field, men’s and women’s golf and women’s rowing; and the suspended fall seasons for cross country, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball.