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Questions loom about football season as Frontier Conference holds media day

Questions loom about football season as Frontier Conference holds media day

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Kent Paulson 2019 Media Day

Frontier Conference commissioner Kent Paulson talks during the 2019 Frontier Conference Football Media Day.

HELENA — Frontier Conference college football coaches answered a number of questions Tuesday in a Zoom meeting held with the media. 

But the biggest question looming over the Frontier and football across the country is with the COVID-19 pandemic surging anew: will there be a season? 

And to that question, there still isn't an answer.

"That's the million-dollar question," Frontier Commissioner Kent Paulson told 406mtsports.com via text message Monday. 

For a time this summer, it seemed to be answered. 

On June 22, the Frontier announced that its members would take part in an eight-game, conference-only schedule. Eight games was the minimum number allowed to qualify for postseason play as outlined by the NAIA. 

The season was set to start Sept. 12 but then, last Monday, the league confirmed that three schools — the College of Idaho, Eastern Oregon and Southern Oregon, which are part of the Cascade Conference — had decided to push football to the spring along with the rest of their sports.

Paulson said later a new schedule would be needed.

Rocky Mountain College is set to play Montana Western on Sept. 12 and MSU-Northern faces Montana Tech the same day. Carroll College, which was slated to open the season against College of Idaho, no longer has an opponent that day.

However, a new schedule isn't completed and a decision about playing in 2020 won't be made until Friday.

"I don't have an answer on that one," Paulson said when asked if a decision on playing needed to come before a schedule could be finalized. "The two topics are intertwined. (We) will get things sorted out in some fashion."

On Monday, the conference released a statement saying, "The Frontier Conference Council of Presidents met this morning and will meet again later this week following (Tuesday's) NAIA (Council of Presidents) virtual call to make decisions as to the conference moving forward both academically and athletically."

The result of that NAIA meeting Tuesday was to push all fall championships except football to the spring. 

"This decision still allows NAIA conferences to compete in the fall and winter, if they so choose," the NAIA press release states.

As for the Frontier, Paulson said: "Every option is on the table as Montana COVID-19 cases continue to spike."

Montana Western athletic director Bill Wilson also weighed in, giving the following statement to 406mtsports.com

"As much as we would like to compete in a traditional fall season, the precautions taken to protect our students, staff and fans is appropriate at this time."   

During the Frontier's annual media day Tuesday, coaches didn't vote on a preseason poll. The league said it will be released later. 

Almost unanimously, coaches, during their turn to speak at the virtual conference, addressed their hope for a season, even those that won't have one this fall. 

"I'm all for the Montana schools making a go of it," College of Idaho head coach Mike Moroski said. "I wish we could join you, but please know we are pulling for you. I think football in the fall is very, very important around the nation."

Of course, Moroski's Yotes, who are the defending Frontier champs, might not get the chance to defend their title. 

The pandemic has also brought about challenges, which Montana Tech's first-year head coach Kyle Samson addressed.

"I think we have all learned things," Samson said. "And I think once we move forward and get past all this, we will really appreciate some of that when we can get back to our day-to-day operations with school and football and everything, but it's been a challenge."

He also stressed that health and safety was the utmost importance.

"The No. 1 thing is the health and safety of our kids, our coaches and their families," Samson said. "We just want the best for them and that's what we are focused on and hopefully, we can all get through this together."   

The one certain takeaway from Frontier media days Tuesday was that when it comes to the 2020 football season, nothing is certain.  

Evan Reier contributed to this report 

Chris is the sports editor and lead preps reporter for the Independent Record and 406mtsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @cmpetey406

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