A day after the Big Ten Conference announced its schools would play only against one another if there is a football season this fall, the Pac-12 followed suit late Friday afternoon, making its decision after a meeting of university presidents and chancellors.
The Pac-12 also announced it is delaying the start of mandatory athletic activities — which the NCAA had said could begin as early as Monday — and pushing back the start of the season in the affected sports, which include football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.
As the spread of the coronavirus rises across the country, the Pac-12 specified it still hopes to play football and other fall sports but that it would have to be approved by state and local health authorities.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports continues to be our number one priority,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “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.”
With the Big Ten’s move, the Pac-12 already lost two of its highest profile nonconference games in Michigan at Washington on Sept. 5 and Ohio State at Oregon on Sept. 12. Now, USC fans dreaming of starting the season with a win over Alabama and finishing it with a victory over Notre Dame can begin regionalizing their aspirations for the 2020 campaign.
There are no guarantees college football will be played this autumn. The Ivy League announced Wednesday it would stage no fall sports competitions. No Football Bowl Subdivision conference has been willing to go that far.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences have bought themselves more time and more creative license to figure a way to complete a season of some kind. How long it takes for the Southeastern Conference, Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference to join them remains to be seen.
The Pac-12 announced that its schools will protect athletes’ scholarships during the pandemic.
“Pac-12 student-athletes who choose not to participate in intercollegiate athletics during the coming academic year because of safety concerns about COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarships honored by their university and will remain in good standing with their team,” the statement said.
The Pac-12 said details on new fall sports schedules will be announced by July 31.