SportsPulse: Dan Wolken and Paul Myerberg discuss if there will be college football this fall. As Wolken put its, all it takes is one bad outcome due to the pandemic to send the sport into chaos.
USA TODAYThe Pac-12 will use a conference-only playing schedule for football and several other fall sports should teams be able to compete in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the conference announced Friday.In doing so, the Pac-12 joins the Big Ten in becoming the second Power Five conference to make a decision that could foreshadow similar changes across the entire Bowl Subdivision.“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.”In addition, the conference said it would be delaying the beginning of all mandatory athletic activities “until a series of health and safety indicators, which have recently trended in a negative direction, provided sufficient positive data to enable a move to a second phase of return-to-play activities.” There was “complete agreement” among Pac-12 athletics directors as the group discussed the viable options, Oregon State athletics director Scott Barnes said. “We were all in agreement that this was our best bet.”While denying big paydays to teams from smaller conferences, the decision also cancels some significant games, starting with Southern California against Alabama in Arlington, Texas on Sept. 5 as well Notre Dame games against USC and Stanford. “With the Pac-12’s decision to move to a conference-only schedule, we will do our best to adjust,” Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne said on Twitter. “What that looks like is to be determined.”Pac-12 will have only conference teams playing conference teams this fall — if there are any games. (Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)More: Opinion: After a jarring 24 hours in college sports, football season is in big troubleMore: Top college football matchups we won’t see in 2020 after Big Ten’s decision to go conference only The sorts of marquee non-conference games eliminated by the league’s decision can often play a significant role in determining the makeup of the College Football Playoff.The executive director of the playoff, Bill Hancock, told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday that the selection committee will use the same protocols to determine the national semifinals and New Year’s Six bowls even if teams play fewer games than during a standard regular season or only face conference opponents.”The fundamental mission of the committee has not changed: Choose the best four teams based on the protocol,” Hancock said.“This is why the committee has 13 football experts. Their duty, their task, is to select the best four teams based on the play on the field and the schedules the conferences establish.”The Pac-12 had been discussing multiple scenarios for this coming season, a person familiar with the league’s talks told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday, including the possibility that the season would be delayed or even moved into the spring.In its statement, the conference said that details on the conference-only schedules will be announced by the end of July.The Pac-12’s decision came following an afternoon meeting of the league’s CEO Group, which is composed of university presidents and chancellors from member schools.”The CEO Group made clear that it hopes to play football and all other fall sports provided that it can meet the health and safety needs of its student-athletes and obtain appropriate permissions from state and local health authorities,” the statement said.The remaining three members of the Power Five have yet to decide how to approach this coming season. The commissioner of the Big 12, Bob Bowlsby, told the Des Moines Register on Thursday that there was no forthcoming announcement from the conference.An official in the ACC told USA TODAY Sports that the league has discussed playing conference-only games, and while those talks had been ongoing the Big Ten’s statement on Thursday should move ahead the ACC’s timeline for a decision.In a statement released on Friday, the ACC said it would make a decision regarding the 2020 season by the end of July.”As we continue to work on the best possible path forward for the return of competition, we will do so in a way that appropriately coincides with our universities’ academic missions,” commissioner John Swofford said. “Over the last few months, our conference has prepared numerous scenarios related to the fall athletics season.”The SEC “will continue to meet regularly with our campus leaders in the coming weeks, guided by medical advisors, to make the important decisions necessary to determine the best path forward related to SEC fall sports,” commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement.”We recognize the challenges ahead and know the well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans must remain at the forefront of those decisions.”As with the Big Ten, the Pac-12 announcement came under the caveat that games are played this fall, which remains uncertain given the continued spread of COVID-19 and the number of positive tests already seen at programs in the FBS.The NCAA allowed athletes to return to campuses beginning on June 1 and to participate in voluntary team activities. Many FBS athletics departments and football programs have since experienced a large number of positive tests for COVID-19, however, including Clemson, LSU and Texas. The positive tests have included athletes and coaches from all sports and not just football.The outbreaks have led several programs to table team workouts. Ohio State and North Carolina placed team activities on hold on Wednesday, with UNC announcing it was suspending workouts after 37 athletes tested positive among 429 coronavirus tests.In conjunction with the Big Ten’s move, the Pac-12’s decision adds to the growing sense of pessimism among coaches, athletics directors and university administrators that the season may not proceed as planned.“I’m really concerned. That is the question of the day. I am very concerned,” Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said on Thursday. “I can’t reiterate enough the fact that we might not play. We just might not. And I think that people need to understand that.”AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideFind New & Used CarsNew CarsUsed CarsofPowered by Cars.com