The Pac-12 season could be coming sooner than expected when it was first postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Heather Dinich of ESPN, "A source with knowledge of the discussions told me that with clearance at the local level in [California] and Oregon, it's possible the Pac-12 can return as soon as late October."
Jon Wilner of the Mercury News also reported that athletic directors from USC and UCLA "joined forces and held a joint Zoom call with Los Angeles County health officials Wednesday evening to clear a path for the football teams to begin practicing, according to sources familiar with the discussions."
"It was encouraging," a source told Wilner.
The reports follow Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott expressing optimism in a statement that football could be returning:
One of the primary hurdles has been state and local mandates in California and Oregon preventing a return to contact practices. In California, for instance, groups of over 12 players would not be permitted to gather because of state rules, making practices difficult to run.
Despite those rules, California Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that the state wasn't holding the Pac-12 back from returning to play.
"I want to make this crystal clear. Nothing in the state guidelines denies the ability for the Pac-12 to resume," he said, per Ryan Karje of the Los Angeles Times. "Quite the contrary. That's been a misrepresentation of the facts."
"I look forward to working as we have been in a constructive dialogue w/ the Pac-12 and NCAA on testing issues ..." he said, per Ryan Young of Rivals. "And as it relates to cohorting, we are certainly willing to engage and have now engaged the Pac-12 in that discussion."
On Tuesday, the USC players wrote Newsom an open letter asking him to ease some of the restrictions in the state to allow them to return to the field:
Kedon Slovis @Kedonslovis
@gavinnewsom We have sat by for two weeks watching teams across the country play the game we love safely. Most schools have a fraction of the resources that our school and conference have provided to play safely. You are the only thing holding us back. Please #LetUsPlay . https://t.co/au4JZ5PNbz
Momentum is perhaps growing in the Pac-12 for a return to play after the Big Ten voted to resume its season the weekend of Oct. 24. The risks of playing amid the coronavirus pandemic remain in place, however—LSU head coach Ed Orgeron revealed Tuesday that the majority of the LSU football team has tested positive for COVID-19.
"Not all of our players, but most of our players have caught it," he told reporters. "So I think hopefully they won't catch it again and hopefully they won't be out for games."
He added that a previous practice already had to be modified because of the number of players missing after contracting the coronavirus.
"I told the team we need everybody, there's no telling what's going to happen with the COVID," he said. "Two weeks ago ... everybody on our offensive line, except for two or three guys, were out. We adjusted very well. You got to make adjustments."