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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Western opts out of winter basketball season

Men’s, women’s teams won’t participate in conference play

Members of the men’s basketball team talking to their coach at the basketball tournament on Nov. 9, 2019. // Photo by Claire Ott

By Jordan Stone

Western Washington University has elected not to play in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference 2020-21 basketball season, they announced Friday via a press release. 

The men and women’s teams will not compete against GNAC schools that opted to play the season, but the press release noted play could be sought with other teams who opted out, following NCAA and applicable health and safety guidelines. 

Those competitions may not begin before Jan. 7.

“This was a very difficult decision, but one that centered around health and safety of our student-athletes and our WWU campus community,” said WWU president Sabah Randhawa in a press release. “I understand the disappointment our student-athletes and coaches must be feeling as a result of the opt-out decision.”

Randhawa is one of the 10 members of the GNAC Conference CEO Board that voted Friday whether to opt out or continue with the conference schedule.

Western was one of six schools to opt out of the GNAC season. The other schools which have opted out are Alaska Anchorage University, Central Washington University, Montana State Billings, Simon Fraser University and Western Oregon University.

The GNAC plans to move forward with a modified conference-only schedule with the remaining teams in the conference. The teams that will participate are Seattle Pacific University, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Northwest Nazarene University and Saint Martin’s University.

“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.”

Both of Western’s varsity basketball teams had their seasons ended by COVID-19 last season. The men were coming off a GNAC conference tournament win and preparing for their regional tournament at the time of cancellation. The women, who lost in the title game of the GNAC Tournament, were also preparing for a regional of their own.

“These are unprecedented times, with many challenges, and while it is tough to share this information today, we understand the severity of the ongoing situation,” said Steve Card, Western’s director of athletics. “My heart goes out to all the student-athletes and coaches, especially the seniors where this has now affected the end of their NCAA tournament dreams last year and now the 2020-21 season.”

Western Athletics has already dealt with fallout from the return to competition amidst the pandemic. A player on the men’s soccer team tested positive for COVID-19, with the players in contact also isolating.

The GNAC management council and CEO Board has not yet made a decision on the other GNAC sports seasons.


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