It was only yesterday that USC football players released a letter addressed to California Governor Gavin Newsom asking him to let them play football this fall. It was only yesterday, and it’s remarkable how much the situation regarding Pac-12 fall football feels like it has changed since then.
First, the Big Ten announced this morning that it will play a fall football schedule beginning the weekend of October 24 and ending in time to play for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Each conference has its own medical advisors, but the Big Ten’s and Pac-12’s have been the most closely aligned. With the Big Ten announcing it would be doing daily antigen testing beginning Sept. 30–the same day the Pac-12 would theoretically be able to begin the same daily testing–the Pac-12 would seemingly be able to hit the same testing thresholds that is allowing the Big Ten to feel comfortable playing in October.
But the most interesting items came later, when California Governor Gavin Newsom shared his thoughts about the viability of Pac-12 football this fall.
Newsome said, “Nothing in the state guidelines denies the ability for the Pac-12 to resume.”
This came following a conversation Newsom had this morning with Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.
On the surface, that seems like great news for the Pac-12. Except, USC must abide by guidelines that say no more than 12 players can gather at a time in a cohort. So yes, technically, a group of 11 players from one team could play against a group of 11 players from another team. How could those teams practice during the week? The answer, as gathered by Jon Wilner, seems to be: they could get creative. And by creative, that means a solution that is not at all practical or reasonable.
The good news is that this might not be the expectation for long. Again according to Wilner, Newsom reached out to USC officials as a result of the players’ letter, and discussion turned to quickly revising that 12-person gathering maximum. That would be a massive adjustment for a USC program that has done a good job in limiting and responding to Covid-19 cases with its student-athletes who have returned to campus.
Later in the day, Scott released a statement that seemingly puts Pac-12 football just one small step away from getting back onto the field.
“The Pac-12 welcomes today’s statements by Governor Newsom of California and Governor Brown of Oregon that state public health officials will allow for contact practice and return to competition, and that there are no state restrictions on our ability to play sports in light of our adherence to strict health and safety protocols and stringent testing requirements, including our recently announced partnership with Quidel which will enable daily rapid results testing,” Scott said in the statement. “We appreciate Governor Newsom’s and Governor Brown’s support, the former of which is consistent with the very productive conversation that he and I had earlier today. Our California and Oregon universities will now each individually and immediately reach out to their relevant county public health officials to seek clarification on what is required to achieve the same clearance to resume contact practice and competition. We are eager for our student-athletes to have the opportunity to play this season, as soon as it can be done safety and in accordance with public health authority approvals.”
While starting a Pac-12 season in October–a likely requirement for inclusion in the College Football Playoff discussion–seems beyond optimistic, seeing USC and the rest of the Pac-12 programs take the field in November now seems as close to a reality as it has since spring ball was shut down in early March.