Wildfire Smoke And Grizzly Football – UM Officials Explain Policy
As summer turns to fall, the wildfire season is nowhere near over, and UM Athletic Department officials are checking their policies on wildfire smoke for both practices and games.
Assistant Communications Director with the University of Montana Department of Athletics, Eric Taber, said a group of medical and administration professionals have decision making authority.
"The Curry Health Center Director, Athletic Directors Kent Haslam and Jean Gee, in conjunction with the Missoula City County Health Department have developed a list of guidelines," Taber said. "These are consistent with guidelines for universities all around the country. It all depends on what the health department says the air quality is as to what action we take. If the air quality is hazardous, we move practices inside."
Taber said there is a big difference between moving a practice inside and canceling or moving a Division One college football game.
"It's not just as simple as saying, 'we're going to cancel this game'," said Taber. "All options are on the table come game day, but there's no written policy for that game day specifically. We monitor the air quality as closely as we possibly can. As you know, the air quality can differ drastically from the south hills to the Rattlesnake area because of the nature of the smoke coming through the valley."
Taber said any decision would be collaborative regarding wildfire smoke and game day.
"We've got the right people in the community, in the state, in the conference and athletic people from around the country are on board with decisions," he said. "We all just get together in a room and figure out what the best course of action is."
There are few events with more economic and social impact than a University of Montana home football game. Therefore, City-County Health Department and University of Montana officials tread very lightly on the subject of cancellation due to wildfire smoke.
UM Associate Athletic Director For Internal Operations Chuck Maes, said he and other officials will provide all the information necessary to help fans make an informed choice about going to the game, just in case conditions are deemed unhealthy due to wildfire smoke.
"We'll make sure we let you know as much as we can tell you about the situation , so you can make an informed decision as to whether or not you and your loved ones should attend the game," Maes said. "We can't make that decision for you, but we will do everything we can to help you determine if it's the wise choice for you."
Air quality was a question for the first game of the 2015 season against North Dakota State, when the Grizzlies won in dramatic fashion with a last second touchdown by running back Joey Counts.