- The Pac-12 has announced that it will play a ‘conference only’ schedule for all fall sports including football due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Big Ten announced that they would go ‘conference only’ on Thursday.
- The Ivy League announced it would cancel all fall sports earlier this week.
The Pac-12 has announced that it would follow the lead of the Big Ten and go with a ‘conference only’ schedule for Fall 2020. The decision will impact all fall sports including football. In addition, the decision will delay the start of fall seasons as it appears unlikely that UCLA or USC could be ready to play in early September due to the spike of COVID-19 cases in the Los Angeles area. Several other major conferences–the ACC, Big 12 and SEC–are expected to come to a decision about their fall sports schedule by the end of July. The expectation is that some if not all of these conferences will also go with a ‘conference only’ schedule.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott released a statement to announce the move:
“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports continues to be our No. 1 priority. Our decisions have and will be guided by science and data, and based upon the trends and indicators over the past days, it has become clear that we need to provide ourselves with maximum flexibility to schedule and to delay any movement to the next phase of return-to-play activities.”
The Pac-12 elimination of non-conference games means that the opponents in these games will need to find a replacement on the schedule or else accept playing fewer games. Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne is in this spot:
“USC AD Mike Bohn and I had multiple conversations over the last several months, and we were both planning on playing the football game on September 5 in Arlington. With the Pac-12’s decision to move to a conference-only schedule, we will do our best to adjust. What that looks like is to be determined.”
The Pac-12’s move to a ‘conference only’ slate also impacts lower rung conferences including the Mountain West. The Mountain West has yet to make any announcements about their own schedule plans but if the rest of the ‘Power 5’ conferences follow the lead of the Pac-12 and Big Ten they might have no option but to follow suit. MW Commissioner Craig Thompson released a statement:
“As has been the case since the onset of the pandemic, we are fully engaged with our membership and advisors on a nearly daily basis exploring the myriad of potential scenarios around returning to competition. We were aware of this possibility and will continue to evaluate the appropriate decisions and the proper timing going forward. The safety, health and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, staff members and campuses remain our top priority.”
One very significant game impacted by the Pac-12 cancellation of non-conference play is the Notre Dame-USC game originally scheduled for November 28. Notre Dame and USC have played each other every season since 1926 except for 1943 through 1945 due to World War II. It also creates challenges for BYU and Hawaii who now have to find new opponents for each of their first four games. BYU was originally slated to play Utah, Michigan State, Arizona State and Minnesota in the first four weeks of the season. Hawaii was scheduled to play Arizona, UFC, Fordham and Oregon. Fordham is out of the Patriot League which has banned flying for the 2020 season.