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No Rocky Mountain Showdown: Pac-12 cancels nonconference games for all fall sports

Buffs and Rams forced into first pause in series since ’94

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
University of Colorado’s Alex Fontenot goes in for another touchdown. The Buffaloes beat the Rams, 52-31, in the Rocky Mountain Showdown at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver.

For the first time since 1994, there will be no Rocky Mountain Showdown between the Colorado Buffaloes and Colorado State Rams.

On late Friday afternoon the inevitable became reality, as the Pac-12 Conference announced the cancellation of all nonconference games on the fall ledger. For CU, that impacts football as well as volleyball and soccer.

The Pac-12 became the latest domino to fall as NCAA athletics continues to swoon in the face of the surging COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this week, the Ivy League announced it was postponing all fall sports until at least Jan. 1. On Thursday, the Big Ten announced it was canceling its nonconference dates for fall sports, while the ACC announced it was pushing the start of all its Olympic sport competitions until at least Sept. 1.

The season-opening football date at Colorado State on Sept. 5 — the Buffs’ first trip to Fort Collins since 1996 and CU’s first visit to CSU’s Canvas Stadium — no longer will happen. The same goes for CU’s Sept. 12 home date against Fresno State and the Sept. 19 trip to Texas A&M. A decision will be made next week whether the league will play its typical nine-game conference schedule or possibly at a 10th game to the ledger.

Fresno State also was supposed to play in Boulder seven years ago, but that matchup was canceled due to the historic 2013 floods.

The Buffs and Rams are not scheduled to resume their series until a 2023 date in Boulder, followed by a return trip to Fort Collins in 2024. As it stands currently, the Buffs’ season opener this fall is now the Sept. 26 home date against Oregon.

The Pac-12 took matters a little further, announcing it is delaying the start of mandatory athletic workouts indefinitely until the league has received “sufficient positive data to enable a move to a second phase of return-to-play activities.” Mandatory workouts for football were scheduled to begin on Monday, with basketball and other sports expecting to follow on July 20. Student-athletes still will be permitted to continue voluntary workouts on campus.

“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 the league’s 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.”

The Pac-12 also announced that any student-athletes who ultimately chooses to opt out of competition during the 2020-21 academic year due to COVID-19 concerns are to remain on scholarship and “in good standing” with their teams.

CU soccer coach Danny Sanchez said completing his team’s schedule has been “in a holding pattern” given the recent surge of the coronavirus, and a penciled-in bus trip date against Nebraska was erased with the Big Ten’s announcement on Thursday. That decision by the Big Ten also impacted the CU volleyball team, which had been scheduled to host Illinois and Iowa as part of the annual Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge. League play for both of those sports does not typically begin until late September.

“We’re pleased about the Pac-12 Conference’s decision today,” CU chancellor Phil DiStefano said in a statement. “The other presidents and chancellors and myself feel this approach maximizes our ability to adapt to the evolving pandemic as we plan for fall sports. It also gives us time to develop the consistent testing and mitigation protocols across the conference that will protect the health and safety of all of our student-athletes, coaches, fans and campus communities.”