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Conference decision means no games for Portland State in 2020; schedule to be determined later

COURTESY PHOTO: PSU ATHLETICS/TROY WAYRYNEN - The 2020 season for Portland State senior receiver Emmanual Diagbe, (80) pictured in a 2019 game, will be delayed until the spring of 2021.The Portland State football season has been postponed until spring 2021.

The Big Sky Conference late Thursday, Aug. 6, decided not to play football this fall and to plan for a spring season, though specific dates have not been announced.

The decision came after a Thursday vote of the conference's presidents council.

Portland State held a virtual football team meeting Friday morning, Aug. 7, that lasted more than an hour. Athletics director Val Cleary and PSU President Stephen Percy participated in the call, according to coach Bruce Barnum, who was thankful for their support.

"It was a helpful meeting. It was needed," Barnum said.

Team captain Anthony Adams said it was a good meeting that answered lot of the players' initial questions. Adams, a junior FCS All-American defensive back, called the postponement of the season "a hard pill to swallow," but that it's nice to have a bit of clarity.

"We've sort of been on pins and needles, so it is kind of nice to have some answers," Adams said.

He said it was reassuring to hear the team has the support from president Percy and from Cleary.

The players learned of the Big Sky's decision prior to the team meeting — first reports filtered out Thursday afternoon — but they had plenty of questions. According to Barnum, the questions ranged from the status of scholarships to academics to what happens to the season tickets purchased by family members.

Players will retain their scholarships — and will need to continue to attend classes remotely in order to remain eligible to play.

"There's so much to clean up now," Barnum said.

For Barnum, that means canceling transportation, lodging and myriad other reservations related to the fall season. After games at Arizona and at Oregon State were canceled by the Pac-12, PSU was slated to begin conference play Sept. 26.

For Portland State football, the Big Sky's decision is, in reality, positive.

COURTESY PHOTO: PSU ATHLETICS/TROY WAYRYNEN - Portland State football coach Bruce Barnum says delaying the season until spring 2021 is a smart move, but brings a new set of challenges for coaches, players and administrators.As restrictions related to the pandemic stand, the Vikings cannot resume football activities until Multnomah County enters Phase 3 of reopening — which under current guidelines won't happen until a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19 is developed. Many of their Big Sky rivals had started fall camp and had players on campus starting in June, so the Vikings would have been at a significant disadvantage had the conference played a fall football schedule.

PSU was not going to start fall camp until at least Aug. 24. Barnum praised Cleary for that decision, noting that a fall camp costs the athletic department somewhere around $90,000.

Adams said the players remain upbeat, though he especially feels for the seniors on the team who have had their final football season disrupted.

"Guys on the team are pretty optimistic, still, which is good," Adams said. "We know (football season) is going to happen eventually."

There will be plenty of challenges to playing a spring schedule, Barnum noted. One is making sure the players can get to campus with enough time to adequately prepare to play football.

"We can't have them just show up Feb. 1 and be ready to play a game Feb. 28," Barnum said, as an example.

Another challenge is asking players to play a spring schedule, then be recovered and ready to play a regular schedule in the fall of 2021.

"You're telling me a guy's going to finish playing in April and he's going to start playing again in August?" Barnum said. "That doesn't really work in our sport."

Adams, a Newberg native who is one of a handful of players living on campus this summer, agreed.

"Your body can only handle so much, no matter how mush football you want to play," he said.

Adams said roughly 30 players have been participating in small-group weight training and on-field workouts this summer on campus, following strict guidelines. He would like to see the whole team returning to campus in September, to give players the chance to reconnect and to have time to prepare for a spring season.

"Right now, people don't understand how weird it's going to be not to have football in the fall," Adams said.

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Twitter: @pauldanzer

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