With many sporting events now being cancelled because of the outbreak of the coronavirus, the Big Sky Conference has decided to cancel their men's & women's basketball tournament.in Boise, Idaho.

The Montana State women's team had already played two games and were in the finals, which was supposed to be played on Friday. The Bobcat men were scheduled to open up their tournament play on Thursday afternoon.

If the Bobcat women had won the tournament, they would have received an automatic bid to play in the NCAA Basketball Tournament that is still scheduled to start next week. As of the moment, the NCAA is still planning to play both their men's and women's basketball tournament, but with no fans in attendance. There's no word right now on how the cancellation of the Big Sky Conference tournament will effect the Bobcat women's chances of getting into the NCAA tournament.

Here is a statement released Thursday by the conference that was posted by Montana State University.

The Big Sky Conference will cancel the remainder of its 2020 Basketball Championships, beginning with the men's quarterfinals scheduled for Thursday (March 12), the conference office announced today.

The Big Sky Presidents' Council convened Thursday morning and voted to move forward in this manner.

"This decision was not made lightly, as we know how meaningful our basketball championships is to our student-athletes, coaches, alumni, and fans," Commissioner Tom Wistrcill said. "After consulting with medical experts, local authorities, and the leadership of our institutions, we feel that this decision is prudent given the health and well-being of all involved.

"We would be remiss not to acknowledge all of our local partners who helped us increase the interest in and attendance at our tournament this year, and we look forward to welcoming those fans back when we return to Boise in March 2021."

The Big Sky and CenturyLink Arena will announce a refund policy soon and will contact fans who purchased tickets for the games that have been cancelled.

Here is what Bobcat Athletic Director Leon Costello, and basketball head coaches Tricia Binford & Danny Sprinkle said on Thursday about the Big Sky tournament being cancelled:

LEON COSTELLO, Montana State University Director of Athletics

On the Big Sky Conference cancelling its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments: “As we saw across the country, numerous conferences were cancelling their tournaments. Ironically the presidents were scheduled to meet anyway, and we thought coming out of that meeting we’d have direction. With the news of what’s going on around the country today the presidents and conference and arena officials made the decision to cancel the tournament. For the student-athletes that have worked so hard I’m very disappointed, but we all understand our job is to put them in the best position to succeed. Their safety is paramount to everything we do. If this is what we need to do, this is what we’ll do. At the end of the day that’s what we’re about.”

On how Bobcat coaches and student-athletes have responded: “Sports teaches you a lot. They teach you the very highest of highs, for instance our women’s team put itself in position to accomplish something great, and our men’s team has also prepared with the hope that they’ll have the opportunity to win this tournament. But it also teaches you how to overcome adversity. Being part of a team, being together and learning how to accomplish things together, there are a lot of life lessons that come every day and every season. This is one of those things that as you look back in history you’ll never forget because this has simply never happened. Our student-athletes should be commended for how they’ve responded, and our coaches should be commended for how they are teaching and mentoring our student-athletes. This is what college athletics is all about, and this is what Bobcat Athletics is all about, having the right people in the right place to lead and develop our student-athletes. We’re all disappointed, but I couldn’t be happier with how our people have handled the news today. There is a lot of emotion, but these are strong people who are leaders and I’ve loved watching how they’ve dealt with this situation.”

On the immediate future: “The next 24 to 48 hours will tell us a lot. I don’t know what is going to happen, obviously. Twenty-four hours ago I never would have imagined we’d be having this conversation. Our conference code has parameters for how we deal with this situation, but who knows what will happen in the next week. I’ll stay here (in Boise on Thursday night) because our team is here, we have a number of student-athletes from this area, and we’ll react to whatever news comes our way appropriately. These are crazy times.”

TRICIA BINFORD, Montana State Head Women’s Basketball Coach

“The first thought is that I’m bummed for all the kids (in the tournament), they’ve prepared for this moment the entire season and it’s taken away. Then you think about our seniors, that they don’t have this opportunity. For us specifically, we’ve been on a run to a record-breaking season and to have it stop like this is quite unusual and unprecedented. But that said, these decisions are above us and it’s for the safety of everybody. We’ll wait and see what happens for next week.”

“As far as the Big Sky protocol, I was told that the top seed would be the team representing (the league in NCAA Championship competition). I think our kids have earned that. They proved themselves night in and night out, so I’m really proud of them. The message I’ve communicated to our kids is that they’ve accomplished all the goals they set out to achieve. They’ve done that. Not to have the opportunity on the court is disappointing, and the same with Idaho. Both teams are disappointed not to play each other, it would have been a fun game, but it’s hard to have words right now because it’s such a remarkable situation.”

“This is a global situation and protecting the public and getting this under control is something we all understand. But this really hits us emotionally because these ladies have put a lot of sweat on the hardwood every single day for joy that they won’t get to experience. Last night we finished our huddle saying that if this is the end of our season we got to finish on a win, and not many teams get to do that. I told them I don’t want them to think of this feeling, I want them to remember the feeling in the locker after that victory (over NAU in the semifinals). I want them to remember the celebration after that victory, how they competed and battled and found ways all season. We had so many celebrations this year, so many remarkable memories. It’s been a heck of a ride with special kids, and that’s what I want them thinking about.”

DANNY SPRINKLE, Montana State Head Men’s Basketball Coach

“Obviously we don’t know about the virus. Our job as leaders and educators is to make sure we protect the student-athletes first. It hurts for all the seniors – not just Harald Frey and Ladan Ricketts on our team, but all the seniors in the conference – and it’s sad. This is what they work for all year, these conference tournaments and to play in March Madness. For them not to get this opportunity is a harsh reality, and there’s no way to prepare, no book to tell us how to tell those seniors. Looking at Harald and Ladan, it breaks your heart for them, and every coach is going through the same thing. Coach Binford’s going through the same thing, and their team was going to play for a championship (Friday), and they have a bunch of seniors. It’s hard, and the reality is that we don’t know the extent of this virus. I think the Big Sky did the right thing, and you see everybody in the country doing the same thing.”

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