Breaking: Ahead of #Pac12 vote, CA health officials have committed to expanding cohorts to a workable number for football practice, per source.
This is a big, big deal. Last significant obstacle removed.
— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) September 24, 2020
Pac-12 announces football will return Nov. 6, undoing previous restrictions
UCLA football will make its return earlier than expected as the Pac-12 announced a fall football schedule beginning Nov. 6. (Liz Ketcham/Daily Bruin senior staff)
By Jon Christon
Sept. 24, 2020 4:24 p.m.
This post was updated Sept. 24 at 5 p.m. to include a statement from the Pac-12.
This post was updated Sept. 24 at 8:52 p.m. to include quotes and information from the Pac-12’s press conference following the decision.
The Pac is back.
Just over a month after postponing all sports until 2021, the Pac-12 unanimously voted to overturn part of that decision and begin the football season Nov. 6, according to multiple reports.
The plan includes seven games for each team starting the weekend of Nov. 6 to Nov. 7, with the conference championship happening Dec. 18. Every team will play on championship weekend – even if they aren’t in the Pac-12 championship game – as well as play a crossover game against a team from the other side of the conference.
The conference’s vote also allows for the resumption of play for UCLA men’s and women’s basketball along with gymnastics and swim and dive. Men’s and women’s basketball will begin Nov. 25 while the starting dates for the other winter sports are yet to be determined.
Pac-12 presidents met Thursday and released a statement following a vote to resume sporting competition in 2020.
“Based upon updated Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee recommendations that take into account material changes to testing capabilities, the prevalence of COVID-19 and cardiac issues, along with updated state and local health official guidance, the Conference will resume its football, basketball and winter sport seasons,” the statement said.
The announcement said the final decision will still be up to necessary state and local health officials for each individual school that has the requisite testing capabilities. It also adds that no fans will be at any Pac-12 sporting events for the rest of 2020.
The decision comes three weeks after the conference partnered with health care product manufacturer Quidel to provide rapid testing for all Pac-12 student-athletes.
While the conference made clear this was not the only factor in reversing its earlier decision to postpone sports until 2021, it was the focal point of conversations that allowed the Pac-12 to move forward.
“It wasn’t as simple as just having access to tests, but that was the start of our ability to reevaluate and have a new, fresh discussion with public health officials that we weren’t able to have before the testing,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott disagreed earlier this month on who was responsible for allowing the student-athletes to return to practice and ultimately competition.
The two sides seem to have come to an understanding and gotten local decision makers on board as well. LA County officials gave the green light to UCLA and USC to practice in groups larger than 12, opening up the possibility of a return once the Pac-12 made the choice to come back.
It was also reported by The Mercury News that California health officials eased up on some of their restrictions ahead of Thursday’s meeting in order to have a workable number of players available for football practices.
Coach Chip Kelly earlier said his team needed six weeks to be ready to play. However, sources since reported the Bruins would be ready to play by Halloween if the county allows for full team practices immediately following the decision.
Scott said it was imperative for a unified start across the conference and agreed that six weeks was the optimal amount of time for teams to ramp up to play.
“We wanted to make sure all teams before the first game had the opportunity for the recommended six weeks to be consistent with our commitment to health and safety,” Scott said. “The other important principle that was articulated was moving forward together and avoiding competitive imbalances of certain teams starting earlier. There is a strong sense of unity in this league and moving forward together.”
UCLA will get those six weeks to get ready for the November start, although they won’t know their first opponent until the conference announces schedules, which will reportedly come out next week. UCLA football players are already on campus and started team workouts recently.
The season is still not a sure thing, as local and state health officials need to sign off every step of the way. If it becomes unsafe at any point for the student-athletes, the season will be halted, according to conference officials.
University of Oregon President – and chair of the Pac-12 CEO group – Michael Schill stressed the importance of those local public health guidelines and ultimately the health and safety of the student-athletes.
“We remain subject to local public health as well as state public health guidelines, and we will follow them,” Schill said. “If we exceed the level that both the state and county think is appropriate – or alternatively our own judgment – we will have to pull the plug. These are students and we have an obligation to protect them, and we are going to do that.”