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Pac-12 and state governments grapple with plan to resume play before new year

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott (left) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (right) have gone back and forth on the possibility of Pac-12 football returning in the near future, with both men laying the responsibility on the other. (Daily Bruin file photos)

By Sam Connon

Sept. 16, 2020 2:56 p.m.

This post was updated Sept. 16 at 5:02 p.m.

The Pac-12 could announce a return to play in the coming weeks, but not without sorting things out with state governments first – at least, according to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.

Since the Pac-12 came to an agreement with health care company Quidel to provide daily COVID-19 testing for student-athletes Sept. 3, Scott has left the door open for a return to play in 2020. The Big Ten, despite not securing daily testing protocols until Wednesday morning, announced it would start its football season Oct. 23.

The Pac-12 and Big Ten had both previously decided to delay all athletic competition until Jan. 1 back in August.

Scott released a statement in response to the Big Ten’s return Wednesday morning, claiming there were still a few speed bumps left before the Pac-12 could consider following suit.

“At this time, our universities in California and Oregon do not have approval from state or local public health officials to start contact practice,” Scott said in the written statement. “We are hopeful that our new daily testing capability can help satisfy public health official approvals in California and Oregon to begin contact practice and competition.”

Scott also said the conference is closely monitoring the wildfires spreading across the Pacific coast.

A group of USC football players wrote an open letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to allow the Pac-12 to resume play Tuesday. UCLA football junior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson posted multiple tweets on Tuesday demanding the same.

But while Scott and others have placed the blame for the lack of a concrete return on state and local governments, Newsom had other thoughts.

Newsom spoke about the return of college sports in a live-streamed press conference Wednesday, and he said teams are allowed to play games in California right now.

“I want to make this crystal clear: Nothing in the state guidelines deny the ability for the Pac-12 to resume, quite the contrary,” Newsom said. “That has been a misrepresentation of the facts.”

Newsom also said he spoke to Scott earlier Wednesday about the state’s role in restricting the Pac-12’s return to play and holding up health and safety guidelines. One of those guidelines, which Newsom said makes football practices more difficult than basketball practices, is that California does not currently allow gatherings of more than six to 12 athletes in one place.

There are upwards of 100 players on UCLA football’s roster, with a minimum of 22 players required on the field at once for any given play.

Coach Chip Kelly said in April his team would need six weeks of full practice before taking the field for a game. According to California’s current guidelines, UCLA wouldn’t even be able to log one full practice before its season opener.

Those guidelines may be changing soon, according to a report from The Mercury News’ Jon Wilner and a statement put out by the Pac-12 Wednesday afternoon.

Wilner reported California will be fast-tracking a revision to its 12-person maximum cohort policy, and Scott said schools will now reach out to local officials for final approval to practice in the Pac-12’s statement. 

As it currently stands, the Pac-12 is the only Power Five conference not competing this fall.

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Sam Connon | Sports senior staff
Connon is currently a Sports senior staff writer for the football and men's basketball beats. He was the Sports editor for the 2019-2020 academic year, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's soccer, cross country, men's golf and women's golf beats from 2018-2019 and a reporter on the baseball and women's basketball beats from 2017-2018. Connon also contributes movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment and co-hosts Daily Bruin Sports' weekly podcast, "Out of Bounds." Connon is a rising fourth-year Communication student from Winchester, Massachusetts.
Connon is currently a Sports senior staff writer for the football and men's basketball beats. He was the Sports editor for the 2019-2020 academic year, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's soccer, cross country, men's golf and women's golf beats from 2018-2019 and a reporter on the baseball and women's basketball beats from 2017-2018. Connon also contributes movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment and co-hosts Daily Bruin Sports' weekly podcast, "Out of Bounds." Connon is a rising fourth-year Communication student from Winchester, Massachusetts.
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