(Editor's note: Big Sky Conference media release)
FARMINGTON, Utah -- Nearly 1,500 Big Sky student-athletes, coaches, and athletics department staff members joined “A Conversation for All,” a one-hour virtual forum that the conference hosted Wednesday exclusively for its membership as the launch of a comprehensive slate of diversity and inclusion programming that will focus on the Black Lives Matter movement.
The first of a forthcoming series of candid conversations in which league members can participate, this forum is one of several initiatives the Big Sky Conference will debut during the 2020-21 academic year to build community support, increase knowledge, provide practical takeaways, and empower participants’ efforts on equity, diversity, and inclusion plans through the conference office and its member institutions.
“We are committed to making a change and improving the lives of our student-athletes and everyone we touch through awareness efforts and actions that will combat racism and other social justice issues,” Big Sky commissioner Tom Wistrcill said. “Being inclusive and empowering our student-athletes are two of our conference’s core values, and everyone in the Big Sky is ready to engage on a deeper level to do just that during a time where it’s needed more than ever.”
The “A Conversation for All” panelists were Sacramento State athletics director Mark Orr, Montana men’s basketball head coach Travis DeCuire, Northern Arizona women’s basketball head coach Loree Payne, Eastern Washington football student-athlete Eric Barriere, and Southern Utah track & field student-athlete and Big Sky SAAC representative Peyton Green. The five panelists shared their thoughts and experiences related to the Black Lives Matter movement and the social unrest going on in the country today. Adrienne Andrews, assistant vice president for Diversity and Inclusion at Weber State, served as moderator.
The initiatives and programming for the school year include offering additional virtual forums, forming small group webinar sessions, dedicating a week to diversity and inclusion education, participating in the NCAA’s Diversity and Inclusion Campaign, recognizing Nov. 3 as a mandatory day off from athletic events to encourage voting, and continuing to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month.
The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will enhance its mental health awareness campaign to include a focus on racial injustice and the effects it has on student-athletes. Additionally, the Big Sky’s athletic departments are partnering with their campus communities to share tools and resources to support individuals and departments across all of the member institutions.