The Pac-12 Conference will be playing football after all. Officials announced teams play a seven-game, conference-only schedule beginning Nov. 6. The Pac-12 was the last of the Power Five conferences to announce it will play football this season. The Big Ten announced nine days ago that its conference will begin playing football on Oct. 23-24.
Officials in both the Big 10 and Pac-12 said a month ago that they were suspending the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Big Ten was the first to announce it wasn’t playing football, followed a day later by the Pac-12. The conference had announced a 10-game schedule in July, but scrapped the idea a month later.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told reporters on Thursday the new decision to play football was based on several factors.
“This has been the result of what we said back in August — that we’d follow the science, follow the data, follow the advice from our medical experts,” Scott said, “We know how badly our student-athletes want to compete. But we would only do so when we felt that we could do so safely.”
Money Talks in Pac-12
The reversal came as athletic departments in the Pac-12 hemorrhaged cash without football. Not participating in the bowl season could also potentially cost schools millions of dollars.
Oregon president Michael Schill told reporters money wasn’t a factor in the Pac-12 returning to football, though he did say the school’s financial loss was significant. He added that if COVID-19 cases spike, the conference would stop playing football.
“The losses that our school are encountering, and particularly our athletic departments, are huge,” Schill said. “The amount of money that will be paid as a result of going back to play is tiny in comparison with the losses.”
Utah, USC Threatened to Leave Conference
When the heads of the schools met on Thursday to discuss whether to return to football, 247Sports reported that the meeting was contentious. Utah threatened to leave the Pac-12 for the Big 12 if they didn’t vote to play football. USC apparently considered turning independent for the 2020 season.
Playing football will be challenging for several Pac-12 teams. Stanford was required to submit a safety plan to the county of Santa Clara.
Government officials in Boulder, Colorado have a ban in place that restricts gatherings by university students. Colorado University athletic director Rick George told reporters the school is working with the county to resume football as safely as possible.
“We will work with our public health officials to comply with the new public health order and be part of the community solution in controlling the spiking cases so we can resume team activities as soon as possible,” George said.
Losing Record Still Bowl Eligible?
Also on Thursday, the Division I Football Oversight Committee recommended any team playing football should be eligible for a bowl game, regardless of their record. Teams with losing records who have been ineligible from bowl games in previous seasons would be allowed to play in one of the 41 postseason contests.
The Division I Council will meet on Oct. 13-14, and could approve the measure then. This would greatly benefit Pac-12 teams that are only playing seven games this season. In the past, teams had to win at least six games to be bowl eligible, meaning teams in the conference would have to go 6-1.
“Providing a more flexible framework for the postseason in this unprecedented time will provide some certainty moving forward,” Shane Lyons, West Virginia’s athletic director and chair of the oversight committee, said in a statement. “These are important postseason opportunities for our student-athletes, and this will help everyone to prepare.”