Pac-12 presidents and chancellors approved a reversal of their initial policy restricting teams to a conference-only schedule for the 2020 college football season on Wednesday. League athletic directors first agreed Tuesday on the move, which opened the door for schools to play nonconference games in the event of a cancellation due to COVID-19.
In order to gain approval to face a nonconference opponent, the school must adhere to Pac-12 testing and related protocols and play the game in the home stadium of the Pac-12 school. Also, if a Pac-12 opponent becomes available by Thursday of game week, the conference game must be played in lieu of the nonconference opponent.
"The Pac-12 is committed to maintaining maximum flexibility to provide our football student-athletes with an opportunity to compete, while continuing to ensure that health and safety remains our number one priority," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement.
Since returning to the field, there have already been five Pac-12 games canceled due to the coronavirus. Because of the Nov. 7 start date and Dec. 18 end date, there has been no room to make-up games outside of some scheduling gymnastics, like the maneuver to get UCLA and Cal to play on Nov. 15 after both teams had their games originally scheduled for Nov. 14 canceled.
Pac-12 decision-makers initially voted for a conference-only schedule out of concern for different testing standards from conference to conference, but daily antigen testing has alleviated some (but definitely not all) of that.
The already-tight windows of college football scheduling are getting tighter. That, along with new information about how COVID-19 is transmitted, appears to have driven the Pac-12's move to reconsider its initial ruling.