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When in doubt, blame Larry Scott.
That’s the old standby, right? When things go badly inside the Pac-12 footprint, blame the commissioner? Bad TV deal? Fire Larry Scott. Too many games on Pac-12 Network instead of a more-widely available channel? Fire Larry Scott? Pac-12 teams can’t get to the College Football Playoff? Can’t get deep into the NCAA Tournament? Roll Larry Scott down a hill and then, fire him.
A lot of the common complaints from Pac-12 fans are valid and a lot of that responsibility falls on the league commissioner, but where the Pac-12 now stands among its Power Five peers is not Scott’s fault. If you want to blame someone, you’re going to need to go higher up the decision-making food chain.
When the Pac-12 announced Sept. 3 that it would have rapid-response testing in all athletic departments starting at the end of this month, Scott had done his part. Daily-antigen testing is expected to help the league back off its mandate of no sports before at least Jan. 1. The problem now is, the political machines in California and Oregon need to step forward and provide some help.
California and Oregon, which combine to house half the Pac-12, have stringent local and state health ordinances in place. The arrival of rapid-response testing could help ease some of those restrictions, but that remains to be seen.
Only on Wednesday did California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown do their part. Newsom said there were no state restrictions stopping the Pac-12 from playing, while Brown’s office clarified that the Oregon Health Authority has granted Oregon and Oregon State exemptions to start practicing, pending approval of the Pac-12′s rapid-response testing plan.
In fairness, both Governors have much bigger problems at the moment as West Coast states continue to deal with rampant wildfires, so it stands to reason that making sure USC and Oregon play football is not the top priority at the moment. That further complicates everything, but that is hardly anyone’s fault, including Scott.
So, take a breath because this is where we are and it’s where we’re going to stay for at least a little while longer. I get it, the fans want to watch the games, but trust me, the media is clamoring to cover some games, too.
I, your friendly, neighborhood Utah beat writer, am none too pleased with what’s going on, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame the Pac-12 commissioner. Not for this, and neither should you.
More Pac-12/Utah/NCAA thoughts
• Let’s call this what it is. The Big Ten made a business decision on Wednesday by restarting football with Oct. 23-24 openers, but leaving the rest of its fall sports to wait for further decisions to be made. The league pulled in $759 million in fiscal 2018, with a full-share payment to members totaling $54 million. Yes, new breakthroughs with daily-antigen testing and testing for myocarditis helped get the Big Ten across the finish line, but alleviating some dire financial trouble in athletic departments also drove this decision. Everyone would be better off if decision-makers were willing to admit as much.
• I can’t wait until it’s time to select and seed this College Football Playoff on Dec. 20, at which time, SEC fans will scream at the top of their lungs that Ohio State has only played nine games. Are we letting the 9-0, Big Ten-champion Buckeyes in over 1-loss Alabama or Georgia? Good luck to the selection committee.
• In the middle of the Big Ten and Pac-12 football sagas, it went completely under the big-picture radar that the NCAA green-lit a Nov. 25 start for college basketball. Now, questions. How many non-conference games will Utah ultimately take on? How many league games will the Pac-12 play? Will league games be played on campuses? Will the Utes be willing to deal with a bubble or weekend-pod situation? I expect things will start moving quickly, not only with Utah and the Pac-12, but across the country.
• The NBA Draft is set to take place virtually on Nov. 18, which means we’re going to get that and the start of college hoops within days of each other this fall. That’s cool, weird and awkward, all at the same time. There have been recent reports of the pre-draft process soon to potentially include facility visits and workouts. Here’s hoping that happens, because fringe guys like Utah State’s Sam Merrill and BYU’s Yoeli Childs could use those opportunities to help make their respective cases.
• J-E-T-S: Just End The Season
• Positive cases and positive-test percentages are both up in the state of Utah. I hope those dance parties were awesome, Utah County.
• Speaking of COVID-19 in the state of Utah, I genuinely thought that this now-viral anti-mask news segment from St. George earlier this week was an SNL skit, or at least something produced by The Onion. What’re we doing, folks?
• The Patriots are going to win 11 games with Cam Newton at quarterback. There will be January football in Foxboro, just as there has been for most of the last 20 years. Nothing’s changing.
• I’m in the middle of reading “All The Pieces Matter,” an oral history of The Wire. A fascinating look inside one of HBO’s best efforts, which will likely cause me to rewatch the series all the way through for the third time. I love a good oral history, whether it’s a book, magazine or otherwise. If you have one worth reading, shout it out.