Pac-12 Conference officials said Thursday they have decided to reinstate the college football, basketball and winter sports seasons, reversing decisions made last month that saw one of the nation’s major college sports conferences postpone its 2020-21 campaigns because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Pac-12 CEO Group said today that with the move that football teams with “necessary state and local health approvals” can begin practices immediately and start their season November 6, the kickoff of a seven-game, conference-only schedule (the schedule itself has not yet been released). The Pac-12 Championship Game will be played December 18, making the teams that include USC and UCLA eligible for the College Football Playoff postseason.
For now, no fans will be allowed at the games — a decision that will be revisited in January.
The Pac-12 also said men’s and women’s basketball can begin November 25, which is the NCAA’s official start date for those sports. Fall sports, which saw their postseasons postponed by the NCAA to the spring, can begin practice in the fall and start their playoffs beginning in January.
The football season originally was suspended August 11 over concerns about consistent testing capabilities across all Pac-12 schools, the prevalence of the virus in Pac-12 communities and nationally, and concerns related to possible cardiac issues associated with COVID-19. Those issues have been addressed, the group said, with antigen testing via Quidel to be administered near-daily to reduce risk and prevent transmission of the virus.
“From the beginning of this crisis, our focus has been on following the science, data and counsel of our public health and infectious disease experts,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott today. “Our agreement with Quidel to provide daily rapid-results testing has been a game-changer in enabling us to move forward with confidence that we can create a safe environment for our student-athletes while giving them the opportunity to pursue their dreams. At the same time, we will continue to monitor health conditions and data and be ready to adjust as required in the name of the health of all.”
Last week, the Big Ten similarly reversed course after it had postponed its football season, and it will now start play October 23-24. The SEC, ACC and Big 12, three of the “power five” conferences in the sport, all have decided to play, with billions of dollars at stake for major TV networks and the universities.