Pac-12 Considering Spring Football Season, More Options Amid COVID-19

Blake SchusterAnalyst IJuly 2, 2020

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 23:  A detail view of the Pac-12 logo on the field at Stanford Stadium prior to the 122nd Big Game between the Stanford Cardinal and the California Golden Bears on November 23, 2019 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
David Madison/Getty Images

Pac-12 officials are evaluating options for a postponed football season in the wake of COVID-19 surges in a number of states that are home to member schools. 

According to Jon Wilner of the Mercury News, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said the conference can "pivot quickly" to an alternate scenario for the season if playing a full 12-game slate becomes untenable this fall.

"I still want to be cautiously optimistic," Scott said, per Wilner. "But if there's no change in society's response and behavior, which results in a quick flattening of the curve and a decrease in the spread of the virus, that would lead to a much more pessimistic view about our campuses being able to open and our ability to play college sports."

Among the potential options is moving the season to the spring semester.

There were more than 4,700 new cases of COVID-19 in Arizona on June 30 and July 1, per the New York Times. California has seen more than 4,400 new cases per day since June 22, including a record high of 8,158 cases June 30. 

Among other options for the Pac-12 include delaying the start of the season and a conference-only schedule. 

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The latter option would mean USC's September 5 season opener against Alabama in Texas—another COVID-19 hotspot—would be eliminated. Both USC and Stanford have games scheduled against Notre Dame, while Oregon is slated to play the Ohio State Buckeyes on September 12.

Scott says the league is ready to "turn on a dime" and has already put legwork into contingency plans, also noting he's heard similar rumblings from other Power Five conferences.  

"There is growing data that suggests playing sports may not be that risky, given what we see from European soccer and some studies," Scott said, though he did not cite specific examples. "The much bigger issue is what the student-athletes, and all students, are doing when they're back on campus."

As universities across the Pac-12 continue to warn fans to wear masks, Wilner notes Pac-12 representatives have spoken with member school presidents and chancellors about excluding some programs from this season.

"There are scenarios where we move as a conference together and scenarios where not everyone can but most can," Scott said. "To be clear, I'm not saying we would go in that direction. I just want to underscore that we're looking at everything."    

 

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