MISSOULA, Mont. — Montana, Montana State and Portland State have opted to not compete in the Big Sky Conference's spring football season and will not play in the Football Championship Subdivision postseason.

Instead, the schools have left open the option of playing "a modified non-conference spring schedule."

The schools made the announcement in a press release Friday, Jan. 15.

Another Big Sky school, Sacramento State, said last October it would not compete in the spring schedule.

After the FCS fall 2020 season was moved to the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Big Sky Conference said it would hold a six-game spring season February 27 to April 10 with all participating teams eligible for the postseason. Now the Montana schools and Portland State will not play the postseason.

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According to a press release from Montana, school president Seth Bodnar and Montana State University president Dr. Waded Cruzado made the joint decision with the health and safety of student-athletes as their primary concern.

"Throughout the pandemic, we have made decisions in the best interest of the students. After much discussion with the athletic directors and coaches at both schools, we feel this decision allows our student-athletes to compete with adequate time to prepare," said Bodnar.

Athletic directors Kent Haslam of Montana and Leon Costello of Montana State said preparing for a spring football season in February would be difficult given the state's climate. They also said playing two full seasons in one calendar year wouldn't allow proper recovery time for the schools' athletes.

"The timeline for our football student-athletes to be physically prepared for the current conference schedule can't be guaranteed given our climate and related circumstances. By altering our spring season, we will be able to focus on their physical training during the appropriate conditions and proper recovery for the fall season," Costello said in the press release.

Montana coach Bobby Hauck said his team will look ahead to the fall.

"We want to compete this spring but we don't believe playing a complete conference schedule is in the best interest of our program," Hauck said in the release. "We feel like we have a championship-caliber team, and preparing to win a championship in Montana in February with no indoor facility would be difficult at best. I think this modified schedule allows our players to compete while keeping the focus on the fall of 2021."

The Missouri Valley Football Conference, in which North Dakota State competes, said Friday it was committed to a full spring schedule with the teams that will play. Indiana State said this week it will opt-out of the spring season.