Pac-12 football teams now have clearance to get back to work, albeit on a voluntary basis.
League presidents and chancellors voted on Tuesday to allow in-person athletic workouts for all sports beginning June 15. The move lends optimism to the notion that an on-time start to the college football season is possible.
Behind the Pac-12 announcement, the University of Utah announced it will allow voluntary workouts on June 15. The athletic department is expected to reveal details of its restart plan later this week, but Utes Athletic Director Mark Harlan indicated during a May 14 interview with 700 AM that things would begin with athletes living locally before opening the door to out-of-area athletes.
“The Pac-12 is committed to the well-being of our student-athletes, and the decision to allow for voluntary workouts, subject to a determination by each school, is guided by the advice of our medical experts and will be supported by the detailed protocols established by our medical advisory committee in concert with our campus’ own safety guidelines,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “As states have either already opened or begin to open up access to parks, gyms and other training facilities, student-athletes should have the option at this time to be in, what for many, will be a much safer environment on campus, where they can have access to the best available health, well-being and training support.”
Despite the Pac-12 allowing voluntary workouts, return dates for individual schools within the league’s six-state footprint could vary. While Arizona is well-along with its reopening, most of the state of Utah is in a “yellow” or low threat level. States like California and Oregon, which account for a total of six teams, are generally reopening their respective economies at a slower rate.
One thing to note here is that while most of Utah is at “yellow,” densely-populated Salt Lake City, home to the University of Utah, remains at an “orange” or moderate threat level. Whether or not the Utes could or would proceed with voluntary workouts with Salt Lake City remaining at “orange” is unknown.
The NCAA set the stage on Wednesday for the Pac-12’s reopening when its Division I Council voted to approve voluntary athletic activity in football as well as men’s and women’s basketball beginning June 1. The college sports governing body followed that decision on Friday by extending voluntary activity to all sports starting June 1.
Individual schools will make decisions on returning, but the Pac-12 has acted in unison in making COVID-related decisions to this point. Not all of its Power Five brethren have done the same.
Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith told reporters early last week that he was eyeing a June 8 return to campus. That announcement came before the NCAA vote and without any sort of unified statement from Big Ten officials. On Tuesday, Clemson announced football, plus men’s and women’s basketball players will return for voluntary activity on June 8, while the ACC has not chimed in on the situation.
Aside from the Pac-12, the SEC (June 8) and Big 12 (June 15) have announced players can return to campuses. Big 12 member Oklahoma said Tuesday that it will reopen for voluntary workouts beginning July 1.
Announcement of early-season kickoff times delayed
Earlier Tuesday, in a joint statement from FBS conferences and their television partners, it was announced that all parties have agreed to an extension for determining college football’s early-season game times.
For now, Utah is scheduled to open the 2020 season on Sept. 3 vs. in-state rival BYU at Rice-Eccles Stadium. This will mark the 12th straight season the Utes will open on a Thursday night. Last season, Utah opened against the Cougars in Provo on ESPN with an 8:15 p.m. kickoff.
Early-season kickoff times are generally announced on or around June 1 each year. An exact date as to when kickoff times will be announced amid the COVID-19 pandemic is TBD.