The Pac-12 ended a six-month shutdown Thursday as the presidents and chancellors approved a restart of competition, including an abbreviated football season that begins the weekend of Nov. 6-7.
Fans won’t be permitted.
The schedule will be released next week, but the framework is set.
Each team will play seven games: five within its division, one inter-division matchup during the regular season and a second inter-division date on the weekend of the conference championship (as a means of providing an additional game).
The championship is scheduled for Dec. 18 and will be played on campus of the division winner with the best record. The move to Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas for the title game has been delayed until next year.
Despite the shortened season, the Pac-12 champion will be eligible for the College Football Playoff but is unlikely to be selected if compared to teams from the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten that have played more games.
The Pac-12’s best hope to reach the semifinals is disruption in other league (i.e., canceled games) that place the every champion on equal ground.
The conference discussed allowing some teams to start play on Halloween but decided everyone should return together.
It will be the last member of the Power Five to return, with its season openers coming two weeks after the Big Ten starts play.
Pac-12 teams may start practicing as soon as they receive approval from public health officials.
In addition, the presidents and chancellors lifted the postponement of Pac-12 basketball, paving the way for teams to begin competition on or near Nov. 25, the start date established by the NCAA.
“It was deliberate and times exhausting,” Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said of the return-to-play process. “But it was necessary to do the right thing.”
The news was largely expected after a frenzied few weeks that saw the conference secure daily antigen tests, state health officials in California and Oregon agree to loosen restrictions and the Big Ten — the Pac-12’s partner in postponement — announce its return.
Nonetheless, Pac-12 fans were anxious that the presidents, considered less passionate about football than their counterparts in other leagues, would balk on the chance to reclaim a place on the stage.
In fact, they discussed holding off until the winter.
“We had a robust discussion today,” said Oregon president Michael Schill, head of the Pac-12 CEO Group.
“It was largely about the (pros and cons) about starting in the fall versus starting in January.
“The consensus was the benefits of starting in the fall were much greater than starting in the winter.”
The conference has faced more severe challenges than its peers because of the wildfires and the state and local health restrictions throughout the footprint.
The most significant obstacle, however, was cleared three weeks ago when the Pac-12 announced a partnership with Quidel Corp. to provide athletic departments with rapid-response antigen tests.
Administered daily before practice and games, they are expected to prevent infected players from taking the field and, based on computer modeling, could reduce infectiousness by 100 percent.
“Quidel made it possible to get over that hurdle,” Schill said of the health-and-safety concerns.
The deal with Quidel — for 15,000 tests per week — was hailed as a game-changer by commissioner Larry Scott at the time, but it took two weeks for momentum to build.
Then, in a remarkable 24 hours that began the afternoon of Sept 15:
— USC players published a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, asking for the state to let them play
— The Big Ten made its return public
— Newsom and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signaled they would lift the restrictions that had prevented the California and Oregon schools from conducting normal practices.
Two days later, the Pac-12 presidents met but did not vote — a decision that generated frustration throughout the conference and prompted the six-day wait until today’s news.
Schill said the presidents delayed the vote in order to discuss the situation with students and faculty on their campuses.
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