Reign extended NAIA tourney cancelled

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The University of Montana Western women’s basketball team got denied a chance to defend its national title this spring due to a decision last week by the NAIA.

But the Lady Dawgs are guaranteed another year as reigning national champs.

The 2020 NAIA Women’s Basketball Championship tourney joined numerous sporting events around the state and country and world last week, when its organizers called off the annual tourney due to concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus that leads to COVID-19.

“The NAIA announced today that effective immediately, it will be cancelling all remaining winter championship events, including those that are currently underway,” stated a March 12 release from the NAIA headquarters in Kansas City.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes, as well as all involved in our championship events, is the NAIA’s highest priority. We will continue to monitor COVID-19 developments and NAIA leadership will work closely with our member institutions to determine the best path forward for future NAIA events, including all spring 2020 championships.”

A few days later, the NAIA decided to also cancel its spring sports seasons. “After convening the Council of Presidents Executive

Committee this morning, and with input from the National Administrative Council and National Eligibility Committee, the decision has been made to cancel the spring 2020 sports season, effective immediately,” reads a release on Monday, March 16, from the NAIA Communications Office.

“We know this is extremely disappointing, especially for our student-athletes. All possible options for maintaining the spring season were discussed at great length by multiple governance groups. However, the growing state of emergency due to COVID-19, as well as the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation yesterday to limit gatherings to fewer than 50 people for eight weeks, meant we could not in good conscience move forward, possibly putting student-athletes, staff, and fans at risk.”

The Montana Western Lady Bulldogs won five straight games last March at the 2019 NAIA Women’s Basketball Championship tourney in Billings.

The Lady Dawgs earned an at-large bid to this year’s tourney, the backets for which were released last week.