The Pac-12 has multiple contingency plans in place to start a football season.
League presidents and chancellors will meet again Thursday, and are expected to provide more clarity on potential start dates, with Oct. 31 and Nov. 7 getting the most traction at the moment.
Regardless of which start date and accompanying training camp calendar gets green-lit, there are going to be significant questions and hurdles facing the league.
The biggest question ahead of that key Thursday meeting is a matter of equity. The four California schools and two Oregon schools have been under strict state and local health ordinances. State-level politics have been dealt with, but local governments still need to sign off before these schools can allow teams to practice, let alone play.
The Pac-12 medical advisory board is recommending a two-week ramp-up period, followed by four weeks of full-contact practice before a game is played. The restrictions have meant that football players in California and Oregon have had little time to workout and practice.
Conversely, a program like Utah began bringing student-athletes back to campus for voluntary workouts in mid-June. Kyle Whittingham’s group was working toward an on-time Sept. 3 start before the Pac-12 hit pause. The Utes have since begun working out under the NCAA’s 12-hour limit, which applies to teams and conferences affected by the pandemic.
All of that leads to the notion that Utah is in a far better position to start a season compared to the California and Oregon schools.
The Pac-12 has moved through the pandemic as a unit, with no public signs of dissensions similar to what plagued the Big Ten before it decided to restart football. However, that united front may be put to the test in the coming days and weeks if half the league, including Utah, feels ready to start on Halloween, if not earlier, and the other half is not.
Working backward from the Pac-12 championship game on Dec. 18 or 19, a Halloween start would allow for as many as seven regular-season games depending on whether or not open weeks are built into the schedule. A Nov. 7 would allow for six regular-season games.
All of this is taking place in the shadow of rapid-response testing coming to Pac-12 athletic departments at the end of the month. With the ability to test student-athletes daily, Utah’s huge spike in cases recently is believed to be less of an obstacle.