The Pac-12 CEO Group voted unanimously on Tuesday to cancel the fall football season for the conference, ending the 2020 fall season before it could begin, but potentially allowing for it to be postponed to the spring.
“The decision was made after consultation with athletics directors and with the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee who expressed concern with moving forward with contact practice,” the Pac-12 said in a statement.
The news was not surprising, as momentum had been building toward this decision and appeared to be guaranteed to happen as soon as the Big Ten announced the cancellation of its fall season earlier in the day.
“All of the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors understand the importance of this decision, and the disappointment it will create for our student-athletes, the coaches, support staff and all of our fans,” Michael H. Schill, president of the University of Oregon, said in the Pac-12 statement. “Ultimately, our decision was guided by science and a deep commitment to the health and welfare of student-athletes. We certainly hope that the Pac-12 will be able to return to competition in the New Year.”
Keeping the health and safety of student-athletes are the forefront meant the conference couldn’t go ahead with the season when there still exists to much uncertainty about the long-term effects of the virus, something Utah team doctor David Petron, a member of Pac-12’s Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Board, alluded to on Monday. Between elevated numbers in Pac-12 communities and the unknown potential for cardiac issues, the Pac-12 couldn’t reconcile moving forward with a fall season.
Arizona State Athletic Director Ray Anderson said the idea of potentially waiving liability and allowing athletes to opt into the season was never a possibility.
“It’s not an option because our responsibilities are not about liability,” he said. “We can’t waive our duties and obligations to protect them…We don’t have to play until it’s safe and we can literally guarantee the health and safety of our student-athletes.”
“Unlike professional sports, college sports cannot operate in a bubble,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “Our athletic programs are a part of broader campuses in communities where in many cases the prevalence of COVID-19 is significant. We will continue to monitor the situation and when conditions change we will be ready to explore all options to play the impacted sports in the new calendar year.”
The bubble idea has been clearly shown as the best way to mitigate risk and ensure the health and safety of those involved as completely as possible. Without the ability to do that at this level, finding a way to a season wouldn’t be possible.
Playing football in the spring would come with its own clear challenges, such as what to do about scholarship numbers and asking players to play two seasons in the same calendar year, combining it with the 2021 season later that fall.
There will be plenty of questions still remaining, but for now, the conference has delivered its biggest answer, ending any speculation about the prospects of a fall football season in 2020.
“We know that this is a difficult day for our student-athletes, and our hearts go out to them and their families,” Scott said. “We have made clear that all of their scholarships will be guaranteed, and that as a Conference we are strongly encouraging the NCAA to grant them an additional year of eligibility.”
There will be plenty of words written and spoken about this decision, but a couple of USC players provided all the sentiment needed without using any.
USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn delivered a statement following the decision. It read, in part: “Our hearts again ache for our student-athletes, coaches, staff, alumni, and fans with the postponement of all sport competitions through the end of the calendar year. Another incomprehensible consequence of an unprecedented time. We wanted to play, we wanted to coach, and we still hope for the opportunity to do both when conditions improve.
“In listening to our Pac-12 Medical Advisory Committee present the latest data over the past few days, it became abundantly clear that, despite our gargantuan efforts locally and as a conference, there is too much uncertainty to move forward with athletics practices and competitions at this time. I would like to thank Dr. Folt for joining with me to advocate for the health and well-being of our student-athletes.”