It's back on: Pac-12 football to be played
It turns out that there will be big-school football in the state of Oregon — the Ducks and Beavers — after all, as the Pac-12 Conference has announced that it has chosen to field the sport.
The 2020 Pac-12 season had been shut down Aug. 11 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions. Plans were in the making to play games in winter/spring 2021.
But, after states signed off on allowing the gatherings of athletes and with approval from the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee, the Pac-12 CEO Group announced Thursday that the fall season would take place. It'll be a seven-game season, starting in November, as soon as Nov. 6 depending on state and local health approval.
The medical committee recommendations take into account "material changes to testing capabilities, the prevalence of COVID-19 and cardiac issues, along with updated state and health official guidance," according to a Pac-12 news release.
The Pac-12 plans to resume football as well as men's and women's basketball and winter sports seasons, which generally start official practices in October. A Pac-12 football championship game would be held Dec. 18, which allows teams to be considered for selection by the College Football Playoff.
Just by being eligible for the CFP, there would be a payout to the Pac-12; last year, it was $66 million to each conference.
The basketball season can start Nov. 25.
A schedule for Oregon and Oregon State football has not been released, yet. The Ducks return as the defending league champs, with a load of talent returning, even with star offensive lineman Penei Sewell opting out to prepare for the NFL Draft.
It remains to be seen whether players who opted out would be allowed to return to their college teams, now that the season will be held in November and December.
A University of Oregon sports information spokesperson tweeted Thursday that football schedules, including TV info, could be announced some time next week. Teams will play five division games, and two crossover games against the other divison; for UO and OSU, that means games in the North Division and two against South teams.
The Pac-12 is the last of the Power 5 leagues to decide to stage football games, joining the Big Ten (which made the decision last week, and wills start Oct. 24), and Big 12 and ACC, which have already begun games, and SEC, which starts this week.
Football and winter sports were originally postponed because of three concerns of the medical advisory committee: consistent testing capabilities across Pac-12 universities, prevalence of the virus in Pac-12 communities and nationally and concerns related to possible cardiac issues associated with COVID-19.
No fans will be permitted at any sports competition taking place on Pac-12 campuses; it's a decision that will be revisited in January 2021.
"The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports remains our guiding light and number one priority," said Pac-12 CEO Group Chair and University of Oregon President Michael Schill. "Our CEO Group has taken a measured and thoughtful approach to today's decision, including extensive consultation with stakeholders on the evolving information and data related to health and safety."
"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. "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."
Schill said that, should the COVID-19 cases spike, the Pac-12 could gain suspend games.
"We're moving forward but we're not moving forward with our eyes shut," he said. "If we start getting spikes that suggest this is not sustainable, we will just stop playing."
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