The Mountain West will not play college football or sports this fall due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic
, the conference announced Monday.
“Since the start of the pandemic, our membership and staff have been working diligently to prepare for a fall sports season,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. “We were hopeful we could carefully and responsibly conduct competition as originally scheduled with essential protocols in place. However, numerous external factors and unknowns outside our control made this difficult decision necessary.”
The decision means the Mountain West becomes the second Bowl Subdivision conference to cancel its season, joining the MAC, which did so last week.
Those two leagues represent a significant portion of the Group of Five, which also includes the American, Conference USA and Sun Belt. All five leagues have faced a financial crunch due to members of the Power Five either eliminating non-conference games outright or, in the cases of the ACC and Big 12, allowing just one non-conference game under certain conditions.
The Mountain West, which includes Boise State, San Diego State, Air Force and others, has traditionally been of the strongest Group of Five leagues, rivaled only by the American. Both conferences annually compete for the automatic access-bowl bid to the New Year’s Six bowl format afforded to the top team from the Group of Five.
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Canceling the season raises doubts about the ability for Air Force to compete for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, the triangular rivalry pitting the Falcons against fellow service academies Army and Navy. Army is an independent program while Navy is a member of the American.
Two other FBS programs, Connecticut and Old Dominion, have decided not to compete during the fall. A member of Conference USA, Old Dominion said Monday that traveling and playing games “posed too great a risk for our student-athletes,” school president John R. Broderick said.
The Mountain West’s announcement comes as the Big Ten evaluates its options for the fall, in a decision that could have an enormous ripple effect on teams and conferences in the rest of the Power Five.