The Pac-12 CEO Group on Thursday unanimously voted to allow the conference to play college football this fall. The Pac-12 will play a seven-game season beginning Friday, Nov. 6 with the Pac-12 Championship Game scheduled for Friday, Dec. 18. Fans will not be permitted to attend the games.
Though the Pac-12 announced earlier this month that it will be able to conduct daily COVID-19 testing and improve its cardiac monitoring for athletes, the league has faced other hurdles in its return to play process, including state and local health restrictions that have created issues for programs hoping to begin working out and practicing.
"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 Pac-12 announced Thursday night. "The football season may now commence for those teams that have the necessary state and local health approvals on November 6."
In addition to the daily COVID-19 antigen testing that programs will be administering, each athlete will be required to pass a weekly PCR test. Any positives determined by an antigen test will be confirmed by a more accurate PCR test.
"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."
Big Ten teams are returning to the field Oct. 24 to begin a scheduled slate of eight games in eight weeks that includes a ninth game for each team on the league's championship week. The difference in the Pac-12's return to play and the Big Ten's decision is that Big Ten teams were raring to go, already utilizing the NCAA 12-hour weekly limit on activities when they announced a return.
Pac-12 schools located in California and Oregon have been limited by local health restrictions, some of which prohibit gatherings of larger than 12 persons. Because of the fires on the West Coast, some teams haven't been unable to practice due to air quality conditions. The Colorado Buffaloes were thought to be ready to roll football-wise until Thursday. That's when the city of Boulder, Colorado, banned all public gatherings of persons aged 18-22 -- including for athletic activities -- until at least Oct. 8. There have been at least 1,400 suspected COVID-19 cases on campus since Aug. 24.
Athletic directors at USC and UCLA spoke with Los Angeles County health officials last week and were led to believe county restrictions could be eased if the Pac-12 approves a return to play, the San Jose Mercury News reported. California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week lifted state restrictions that kept schools from conducting fully padded practices. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown had previously lifted restrictions that impacted Oregon and Oregon State. Those moves now allows schools to work directly with local health officials.
Pac-12 teams will presumably be eligible for the College Football Playoff if their season is completed by Dec. 19 as scheduled. The CFP Selection Committee is set to release its final rankings on Dec. 20. However, it's unclear how the committee would weight a team that only played seven games from the Pac-12 against a team from the ACC, Big 12 or SEC that plays around 10 games this season.
"There is a conversation to be had [about eligibility], and it's probably not going to be had right away. We're all going to have to see how many games we get in," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, a member of the CFP Management Committee, told CBS Sports.