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Northwest Nazarene guard George Reidy (15) passes the ball to a teammate during the game against College of Idaho on Nov. 19, 2019.

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The Northwest Nazarene men's and women's basketball teams will be going independent for the upcoming season, opening up the possibility of continuing Idaho's oldest college basketball rivalry.

The GNAC announced the cancellation of an abbreviated conference basketball schedule on Thursday after two of the remaining four teams opted out of conference play in the last week due to COVID-19 concerns. Teams will now be allowed to individually schedule contests after Jan. 7.

This means the Nighthawks can schedule games against Canyon County rival College of Idaho this upcoming season. The Yotes and Nighthawks men's basketball teams have met on the court 208 times, only failing to meet during the season twice since 1933. The two teams didn't meet during the 1939-40 and 2002-03 seasons.

It looked like the two schools might be in danger of not meeting again when the school announced its 12-game schedule between four teams that had not opted out of the season. Alaska Anchorage, Central Washington, Montana State Billings, Simon Fraser, Western Oregon and Western Washington all opted out of the GNAC season on Nov. 13. The remaining four teams were not allowed to schedule nonconference opponents.

Alaska Fairbanks opted out on Friday and Seattle Pacific on Wednesday, leaving just Northwest Nazarene and Saint Martin's as the only two schools still willing to participate in a conference schedule.

Now each GNAC school is free to schedule games as it wishes and no 2020-21 conference champion will be crowned in men's or women's basketball. Games and practices will be defined by each institution and must follow both NCAA and local health policies.

The College of Idaho currently has a pair of open weekends after Jan. 7 on its schedule, both in the middle of Cascade Conference play. The Yotes don't have any games the weekend of Jan. 15-16, following a home game against Eastern Oregon on Jan. 13. The team is also off the weekend of Feb. 5-6, sandwiched between a pair of home series against Warner Pacific the weekend before and Southern Oregon the weekend after.

The GNAC Management Council and CEO board will continue looking at options to host a spring sports season, as well as fall sports seasons which had to be postponed.

John Wustrow is the assistant sports editor of the Idaho Press. He is a Michigan native and a graduate of Indiana University.

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