09/24 21:13 CDT Pac-12 to kick off 7-game football season in early November
Pac-12 to kick off 7-game football season in early November
By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer
The Pac-12 is set to kickoff a seven-game football season Nov. 6 after it
followed the Big Ten in overturning an August decision to punt on playing in
the fall because of concerns about COVID-19.
With the conference having secured daily COVID-19 testing for its athletes and
been given the green light from state and local health officials, the Pac-12
CEO Group voted unanimously Thursday to lift a Jan. 1 moratorium on athletic
"The discussion among the presidents and chancellors was largely about the
benefits as well as the cons of starting in the fall versus starting in
January," University of Oregon President Michael Schill said. "The consensus
opinion was the benefits of starting in the fall were much greater than the
benefits of starting in the .. winter.
"Things changed from the first time we addressed this issue."
The Pac-12's men's and women's basketball seasons can start Nov. 25, in line
with the NCAA's recently announced opening date. The football championship game
is set for Dec. 18, putting the conference in play for College Football Playoff
and New Year's Six Bowl selection --- and the multimillion dollar payouts that
come with them.
A major college football season that six weeks ago seemed to be in peril,
slowly crumbling away, is reforming and has a chance to be almost whole by
November. The Big Ten reversed course last week, with kickoff scheduled for the
weekend of Oct. 24.
The Mountain West presidents were meeting Thursday night to discuss a possible
late October start to the football season. The Mid-American Conference, the
first FBS league to postpone, also is reconsidering playing in the fall.
The Southeastern Conference begins play this weekend, joining the Big 12,
Atlantic Coast Conference and three others that have been up and running since
Labor Day weekend.
The season is ongoing but it has been anything but normal. There have been 21
games postponed or canceled since Aug. 26 because of teams battling various
levels of COVID-19-related issues.
This week, four games scheduled to be played Saturday have been called off,
including Notre Dame at Wake Forest because of a virus outbreak among Fighting
The turning point for the return of sports in the Pac-12 came Sept. 3 when it
entered an agreement with diagnostic testing company Quidel that will give each
school the capacity to conduct daily antigen tests on their athletes.
Still, it took three weeks for the conference to reverse course on fall
football, leaving it starting later and scheduled to play fewer games than the
other Power Five conferences.
"I don't think we're behind," Schill said. "I think that we are acting
deliberately. We are acting in the students best interest. We waited until we
were able to if not ensure, protect their health and safety."
Schill said state and local restrictions in California and Oregon to stem the
spread of the virus made it impossible for six Pac-12 teams in those states to
practice football and slowed the conference's return to play decision
"Those barriers came down once the daily antigen test was available," Schill
When the Pac-12 postponed Aug. 11, its medical advisors had recommended daily
testing for athletes because of high rates of community spread of the virus in
most of the counties where schools were located. Those rates have improved in
most Pac-12 counties, but not all.
"If this is not sustainable, we will stop playing," Schill.
Daily testing should also decrease the number of athletes who end up in
quarantine after coming into what would be considered a high-risk contact with
someone who has tested positive.
"Our goal is to not have a bunch of our student athletes get covid," said Dr.
Doug Aukerman of Oregon State.
There is still work to be done for Pac-12 schools to get the approvals of local
officials in Northern California and now in Colorado. Due to a recent spike in
COVID-19 cases, Boulder County officials Thursday halted gatherings for
college-aged residents for two weeks and has said that includes athletic events.
"We'll continue to work with our public health officials to comply with the
public health order and be a part of the community solution," Colorado athletic
director Rick George said. The one thing I've learned in this pandemic, is
don't get too high and don't get too low."
No fans will be permitted at Pac-12 sporting events taking place on campus, the
The loss of ticket revenue and decreased number of games will cost Pac-12
schools tens of millions of dollars, but it could have been even worse with no
football at all.
"This has nothing to do with money," Schill said. "It was never once mentioned
as a consideration. The losses that are schools are encountering, in particular
our athletic departments, are huge. The amount of money that will be saved as a
result of going back to play is tiny in comparison with the losses."
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed to this report.
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