SALT LAKE CITY — Dixie State will have to wait to play at the Football Championship Subdivision level.
The school announced Wednesday that it will postpone its 2020 football schedule to the spring amid the COVID-19 developments and its impact on college football.
“As difficult as a decision like this is, it is the right call,” Dixie State athletic director Jason Boothe said in a statement. “There are so many factors involved, but our top priority that we cannot waiver on is the health and well-being of our student-athletes.”
Dixie State became a Division I member July 1, joining the Western Athletic Conference in all other sports and becoming an FCS independent for football. The Trailblazers had a program-best 8-3 record in 2019 during their final season at the Division II level.
“First of all, I am very proud of our student-athletes and how they have responded to these uncertain circumstances. They bought in to the prospect of playing and stayed positive, worked tremendously hard and prepared for a season that we all wish we could play.” — Dixie State head coach Paul Peterson
“First of all, I am very proud of our student-athletes and how they have responded to these uncertain circumstances,” Dixie State head coach Paul Peterson said in a statement. “They bought in to the prospect of playing and stayed positive, worked tremendously hard and prepared for a season that we all wish we could play.
“As time has gone by, our options to play have dwindled, despite our university leaders’ best efforts otherwise. Our student-athletes’ physical and mental health are our top concerns at this time. We will use this semester to develop in the classroom and to continue to serve our community. I hope that the nation can heal, our government leaders can make good decisions and we can all get better as a result these trying times.”
Dixie State was scheduled to play an 11-game schedule in the fall, with eight games against FCS opponents, including four Big Sky Conference matchups, with a Sept. 5 season opener at Southern Utah. The Trailblazers also had three games scheduled against Division II competition.
As college football conferences across all divisions of NCAA began to make decisions about fall competition in recent weeks, though, Dixie State’s schedule began to fall apart. First, the Trailblazers had all four of their home games canceled, including the home opener against Western New Mexico on Sept. 12 and other home dates with Drake (Sept. 26), Azusa Pacific (Oct. 24) and Western Colorado (Nov. 7).
Last Friday, both the Big Sky Conference and Missouri Valley Football Conference announced they would postpone conference play until spring 2021. While both leagues indicated they hadn’t shut the door on nonconference play this fall, it put six road games into question for Dixie State: the opener at SUU, along with games at Montana State (Sept. 19), Sacramento State (Oct. 3), Weber State (Oct. 10), South Dakota (Oct. 17) and Illinois State (Nov. 21).
On Monday, Tarleton State postponed its schedule until the spring, canceling its game against the Trailblazers on Nov. 28. Tarleton State, like Dixie State, jumped to the D-I level this year and is also playing as an FCS independent.
“As our schedule of games this fall evaporated the last couple weeks, we tried to get something together so our athletes could play, but as we went through each option, there were still too many unknowns and big questions,” Boothe said. “While we felt comfortable with playing in terms of the safety of our student-athletes, ultimately, the only thing to do was to postpone to the spring when hopefully we can enjoy a much safer environment.”
Dixie State said it will contact season ticket holders directly in the upcoming weeks regarding their accounts.