COVID 19 has forced the Central Washington football program to cancel its September 5 season opener at Washington Grizzly Stadium.

UM Athletic Director Kent Haslam broke the news to KGVO on Friday evening.

“The Great Northwest Athletic Conference, of which Central Washington is a member, announced today that they are suspending all fall sports, which affects our September 5th home game, so we’ve gone ahead and cancelled that game,” said Haslam, who spoke of the heavy financial impact whenever a home game cannot be played. “There’s certainly a financial impact when we can’t have a home game, certainly from a ticket sales standpoint for the athletic department, but also the other ancillary revenue that’s generated around the community.”

Haslam said the fall sports picture for intercollegiate athletics is becoming more and more unsure with the effects of COVID 19.

“I think the landscape of college athletics is changing so quickly,” he said. “You’re seeing other FCS conferences suspend all fall sports, and we’re having those conversations in the Big Sky Conference. Our athletic directors meet twice a week and we keep the presidents up to date and we’ll see where all this ends up.”

Haslam said the plan is to play the remaining 10 games of the football schedule, however, he said ‘who knows how quickly all that could change’.

Haslam said Montana has already faced numerous cancellations for the various fall sports.

“We’ve already had cancellations,” he said. “We saw that the PAC 12 announce that they were moving to a conference-only schedule for all their fall sports. We had Oregon State coming here to play volleyball and that match was cancelled. We had our soccer team heading to Washington State to play in Pullman and that was cancelled. This announcement will affect soccer as well because MSU Billings is a member of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and they were scheduled to come to Missoula to play a soccer match. Gonzaga was coming here to play both volleyball and soccer, and the West Coast Conference announced they’re going to delay the start of their schedules, so there are more sports than just football that are being affected.”

Haslam said there have been discussions about moving football to the spring and having a schedule that would run from late February to the end of April.

“Getting those games in would certainly be important to our student athletes, and of course for our athletic department,” he said.

Below, find the letter sent on Friday from Kent Haslam.

Dear Griz fans,

I hope this message finds you and your families happy and healthy. Thank you for all the generous support of our student-athletes at the University of Montana.

As we enter the second half of July, I want to update you on the status of the fall sports season.

Today, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) announced the cancellation of fall sports for their member institutions. This includes Central Washington University, our scheduled opponent for September 5 in Missoula.

That game has been canceled, leaving our football team with 10 scheduled games, five of which are in Missoula. At this point, we are still planning to play the remaining games. However, the landscape of college athletics is changing quickly.

The Big Sky Conference President's Council and Athletic Directors are engaged in ongoing discussions about how to best navigate fall sports amongst the realities of COVID-19, with the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans as our top priority.

We understand and acknowledge this uncertainty is frustrating, but we simply do not have the answers we all seek. When we have additional information on the 2020 schedule and the impact of the changes to our ticket plans, we will share it with you. To receive the most up-to-date information, please make sure you have a current email address on file with the Adams Center Box Office. You can email griztix@umontana.edu to add or update your email address.

Please remember these are the 2020 football season ticket options as it relates to a change in the schedule:

-        Donate the purchase of your 2020 season tickets to the Grizzly Scholarship Association to support student-athlete scholarships

-        Credit the purchase of your 2020 season tickets to 2021

-        Receive a refund on your purchase (refunds will be given at a later date this fall)

Remember that any contribution to the Grizzly Scholarship Association is an investment in the more than 300 student-athletes at the University of Montana. It helps make sure they have the tools and resources necessary to be successful in the classroom, in competition, and in the community. We ask you to please consider donating the value of your tickets to support these student-athletes.

Please wait to contact the box office about your options until we provide you with more information in the coming weeks. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

Grizzly Athletics will continue to follow guidance from the Governor's Office, the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, the Missoula County Health Department, and the University of Montana community as we navigate this unprecedented situation.

Please continue to follow all best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19, including wearing a mask, washing your hands with soap and water, practicing physical distancing, and staying home if you feel sick.

Thank you for your support and patience. I am proud to be a Griz.

Sincerely,

Kent Haslam

Director of Athletics

University of Montana