Facing second and long, Pac-12 athletic directors gained little yardage Friday in their drive to move up the start of the football season.
The ADs had hoped to get some clarity from a meeting of Pac-12 presidents and chancellors Friday about whether play could begin this fall. No decisions were made, but the CEOs are expected to meet again Thursday, at which time they could vote to restart the season.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports will continue to be our number one priority in all of our decision making,” the league said in a statement Friday.
The Pac-12 had pledged in mid-August that it wouldn’t allow games in any sports until 2021. That hard line started to be blurred Wednesday when the Big Ten announced it would resume football starting Oct. 23, leaving the Pac-12 as the only Power Five conference not expected to take the field.
The conference’s athletic directors then proposed rebooting the season, with a start date on either Oct. 31 or Nov. 7. That would theoretically give teams enough games to qualify them for consideration in the College Football Playoff. A November start, however, would allow Pac-12 teams little to no room in their schedules for cancellations if they intend to have a sample size large enough for playoff consideration.
The CFP final rankings are set to be announced Dec. 20, with semifinals at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl scheduled for New Year’s Day.
That the ADs got no firm direction from Friday’s meeting did not come as a complete surprise. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott told the Associated Press on Thursday that the meeting would mostly be a briefing for the conference CEOs and that he expected no voting to occur.
“[Friday] is a chance to get everyone caught up on what’s been a very dynamic and rapidly changing series of events over the last 24 to 48 hours,” Scott said. “We’ll obviously have to decide soon, but I’m not necessarily expecting a decision [Friday].”
Even if the CEOs approve a start date, teams will still be subject to local health restrictions.
The governors of both California and Oregon, which have been among the most stringent in the nation with their COVID-19 protocols, have both said they will grant exemptions to college football programs. USC, UCLA, California, Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State nonetheless will have to get similar allowances from county and local governments. They may have air-quality restrictions to deal with as well, as both states have experienced a rash of wildfires.
One key to the reopening plan is the Pac-12′s recent announcement of a deal with the Quidel Corporation. The testing firm is promising daily COVID-19 tests for student-athletes with results within hours. Each of the 12 schools is expected to receive testing equipment by the end of September, but daily testing is not expected to begin until the start of full-contact practices, according to a report by Jon Wilner of the Bay Area News Group.
According to an ESPN report, the Pac-12 is the first conference in the country to enter into a league-wide daily testing program. But several well-known college football programs that have deals with the company, Quidel president and CEO Douglas Bryant said.