Pac-12 nixes nonconference football
Following the Big Ten Conference's lead, the Pac-12 will implement conference-only athletic events in 2020 — meaning the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers won't have nonleague football games.
For Oregon, it wipes out a nonleague slate that featured North Dakota State, Ohio State and Hawaii — one of the best nonleague schedules in recent memory.
The Pac-12 also is delaying the start of mandatory athletic activities until a series of health and safety indicators, which have trended negative lately, provide sufficient positive data to move to a second phase of return-to-play activities.
The conference will announce conference-only schedules no later than July 31.
Later Friday, July 10, the Pac-12 announced that conference commissioner Larry Scott has tested positive for COVID-19
The Pac-12's decision could have a significant impact at Portland State. The Vikings were scheduled to play games at Arizona and at Oregon State this season, which combined were to pay $950,000 into the PSU athletic department budget.
Val Cleary, PSU athletics director, said Friday that she is "working closely with university leadership to determine how we address the financials of these game contracts."
Cleary said she should know more within a few days about how losing those games will impact her department.
In addition to Portland State, Oregon State was to play Colorado State at home and at Oklahoma State in nonconference football games.
OSU athletic director Scott Barnes said he will try to reschedule those games in future seasons, though doing so in the near future will be difficult with schedules already set for several years.
Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens, in a letter to football season-ticket holders, said he will work with Ohio State, North Dakota State and Hawaii to try to schedule visits from those teams in the future. The marquee Ohio State game was canceled on Thursday, July 9, with the Big Ten announcement that its teams will only play conference opponents this fall.
The decision to limit fall team sports — football, volleyball and men's and women's soccer — to conference-only games was made by the university presidents. Barnes said the 12 athletic directors in the Pac-12 unanimously support the decision.
The conference also announced that any student-athlete who decides not to participate in sports because of coronavirus concerns will keep their scholarship.
Barnes said he is confident in the protocols in place to keep OSU athletes safe, but that there is no guarantee any fall sports will happen.
"This decision doesn't suggest we're playing this fall. This decision suggests that collectively we're unified in moving forward with Pac-12 competition — if our local and state authorities tell us it's OK. That drives all of this," Barnes said.
Part of the rationale for canceling nonconference competition was to delay the start of the fall sports season, which appeared to be in jeopardy because of a recent significant uptick in the coronavirus in the Los Angeles area and in Arizona.
Oregon State and Oregon will remain in a phase that allows small groups of athletes to participate in voluntary workouts on campus.
The conference is looking at football schedules being either nine or 10 games, rather than a complete round-robin with 11 games, according to Barnes.
"At the end of the day, it won't be our decision. It won't be a university or Pac-12 decision. It will be local and state health authorities," Barnes said. "And we've been relying on them all the way through this.
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