Itemizer-Observer staff report

PORTLAND — The Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC), which include Western Oregon University, announced on Friday that it will suspend all fall intercollegiate sports competitions through Nov. 30.

The suspension is due to COVID-19, a WOU news release said.

“Today our conference made a difficult, yet necessary decision to suspend intercollegiate athletic competition through Nov. 30. Due to the varied locations of the institutions in our conference, asking our teams to travel to multiple states within two countries just isn’t responsible and safe at this time as this health crisis continues to escalate,” said Randi Lydum, WOU’ interim executive director of intercollegiate athletics. “We are in the process of determining if it will be possible to shift our fall sport seasons to the winter and spring and will have additional information as plans develop. At this time, our winter and spring sport seasons have not changed. As our campus begins to re-open in the coming weeks, we will begin training and practicing at our facilities and with our coaches. This is frustrating and sad but we are doing everything we can to get our student-athletes back on campus and safely participating in sport and campus life.”

The GNAC CEO Board said it will continue to monitor developments related to the pandemic and make a decision by Oct. 15 regarding the status of competition after Nov. 30.

Friday’s announcement, which affects all 17 sports sponsored by the GNAC, precludes contests of any kind against outside competition. Conference members will be able to make their own decisions about holding practices in the fall.

“This was not a decision taken lightly but one the Board believes is in the best interests of student-athletes and staff,” GNAC commissioner Dave Haglund said in the news release. “There is no greater priority than the health and well-being of our student-athletes and this action is reflective of the GNAC’s commitment to this prevailing principle. 

Haglund said that conference governance groups have already engaged in active discussions for providing meaningful seasons of competition for the conference’s fall championship sports, including the feasibility of playing in the spring.

“We understand that many student-athletes will be disappointed and saddened by this news, particularly our seniors, and we have profound empathy for everyone affected by this decision, including non-conference opponents,” Haglund said. “We can only ask for their thoughtful understanding during these challenging and unprecedented times.”

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