In Big Sky decision, turnaround was quick

Big Sky ConferenceIdaho guard Gina Marxen drives around a screen set by teammate Beyonce Bea during a Big Sky Conference tournament game on March 12 against Idaho State. The tournament was later canceled.

Big Sky commissioner Tom Wistrcill on Monday held a teleconference call with reporters to discuss the conference’s cancellation of last week’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in Boise.

The conference voted Thursday morning to cancel the Big Sky basketball tournaments in the middle of a whirlwind two days in which the NBA and NCAA conferences across the country put the sport on hold because of concerns about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“In about the span of 15 minutes we went from describing exactly how we were going to manage the tournament with fans, to our presidents having a discussion about canceling the tournament,” Wistrcill said. “They ultimately decided that was the right thing to do, certainly with my support and the support of others, that at this point we needed to cancel the tournament.”

By 10:15 Thursday morning, the Big Sky was alerting players and coaches about the decision.

The women’s tournament had been set to conclude Friday and the men’s Saturday. Tournament week had started March 9 with the women’s first round.

The Idaho women’s team was scheduled to face Montana State in the Friday championship. Instead, the Vandals saw their season end with a win over Idaho State in the semifinals.

After NBA player Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with the virus Wednesday, the day UI beat ISU, changes came quickly.

The NCAA then announced the first two rounds of its March Madness tournament would be without fans.

“That really kind of got the ball rolling around the country,” Wistrcill said. “Myself and other commissioners, we started texting and calling each other just to see what was going to happen with each of them.”

The conversations quickly turned from holding tournaments without fans to widespread cancellation.

At the time of the cancellation, there had been no confirmed cases of the virus in Idaho. The state’s first confirmed case was announced Friday to be a woman in her 50s in Ada County (Boise area). As of Monday morning, five people had tested positive in the state.

Wistrcill said nobody who attended the tournament has tested positive.

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