The Pac-12 announced Thursday that it plans to begin its football season on Nov. 6, and the conference is expected to release seven-game conference schedules for its twelve teams next week.
The conference’s season will culminate with the Pac-12 Championship Game on Dec. 18 — two days before the College Football Playoff field will be announced.
The Pac-12’s decision may shock some, as the conference announced on Aug. 11 that it unanimously voted to postpone all athletic competition through the end of the year due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.
But the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee’s most recent health and safety recommendations, last updated on Sept. 17, saw significant advances in the areas that led to the initial postponement.
Improvements in testing capabilities, the decreasing prevalence of the virus in the conference’s footprint and a collective commitment to monitoring cardiac issues related to the virus led the Pac-12 CEO Group and the Medical Advisory Committee to the decision that the season could begin.
The developments addressed the three primary areas of concern that led the conference’s initial decision to delay its season.
Dr. Doug Aukerman, Oregon State University senior associate athletic director and chair of the conference’s student-athlete health and well-being initiative, said that the advent of daily and antigen testing increased the conference’s ability to mitigate the risks associated with the COVID-19 virus.
Pac-12 Proceeds With Caution
While fans can certainly rejoice knowing that all of the Power Five conferences plan to play football this fall, Michael Schill, University of Oregon president and chair of the Pac-12 CEO group, indicated that the Pac-12 will proceed with caution.
Schill stated that while the conference is moving forward with its season, play will be halted should a spike in COVID-19 cases across the Pac-12 occur.
The Oregon administrator maintained that the health and safety of the conference’s students remained paramount. And that Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott’s ability to secure daily testing for students helped solve a major issue.
Following the Science
Commissioner Larry Scott acknowledged that the Pac-12 is attempting to navigate through a tumultuous time, as numerous universities have had to postpone games in the first month of the 2020 college football season due to issues stemming from the coronavirus.
Scott stated that the Pac-12 has continuously followed the science. And while positive changes in previous weeks have led to the possibility of a fall kick-off, negative changes could lead to disruptions in the season.
The commissioner also declared that the Pac-12 will remain committed to the general health and safety of its athletes. That commitment led to a six-week “ramp-up” period for all teams.
The six-week period, recommended by the NCAA football oversight committee, eliminates the likelihood of competitive advantages held by schools that began practice sooner.
Additionally, the commissioner announced that fans cannot attend any of the conference’s football games.
Meanwhile, Dr. Doug Aukerman made the assurance that monitoring health information will not stop now.
While the Pac-12 has made significant progress in testing for COVID-19 and evaluating the effects of the virus, Aukerman stated that they’ve reached another starting point. He asserted that monitoring developments regarding COVID-19 is imperative, as the conference is fully committed to keeping its student-athletes safe.
The Desire and Ability to Play
While the concerns regarding the coronavirus certainly impacted the decision to postpone the Pac-12 season, presidents of some schools didn’t think they had a choice.
Officials believed that some state and local guidance restricted the Pac-12’s ability to practice and play.
Once that was clarified, it was clear that with the innovations in testing and the approval from public officials, the Pac-12 officials could help meet the conference’s players’ request: the opportunity to play this fall.
Other Pac-12 Sports
The Pac-12 also announced that the conference’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, consistent with the NCAA’s scheduled start date.
However, the conference’s volleyball and soccer seasons will not take place this fall. Instead, they will begin in the spring, which aligns with the NCAA’s new fall championship structure for Olympic sports.