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University of Washington Huskies Football
Sports >  UW football

As Big Ten and Pac-12 football season cancellation reports swirl, UW Huskies hang in limbo

UPDATED: Mon., Aug. 10, 2020

Washington's Myles Bryant runs through a drill during an NCAA football practice on Aug. 5, 2019 in Seattle.  (Associated Press)
Washington's Myles Bryant runs through a drill during an NCAA football practice on Aug. 5, 2019 in Seattle. (Associated Press)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – On July 31, the Pac-12 unveiled a 10-game, conference-only fall 2020 football schedule.

Ten days later, that schedule appears to be all but scrapped.

On Monday, the Detroit Free Press reported that the Big Ten Conference has voted 12-2 to cancel its 2020 football season. A Big Ten spokesperson, meanwhile, reportedly told Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel that no such vote has occurred. The conference’s presidents will make a final decision on a call at 3 p.m., according to the Lansing Sports Journal.

The Big Ten’s seismic deliberations come two days after the Mid-American Conference, which resides in the same geographic footprint as the Big Ten, announced the cancellation of its fall football season.

Dan Patrick reported separately on his national radio show on Monday that both the Big Ten and Pac-12 will formally announce the cancellations of their respective seasons on Tuesday, according to a source. The Pac-12 presidents will not make any final decisions until their scheduled meeting on Tuesday at the earliest, according to Jon Wilner of the Bay Area News Group.

The Times previously reported incorrectly that all UW workouts were canceled on Monday. In fact, the Huskies went ahead with small group strength and conditioning workouts, according to multiple sources. They did not complete full team on-field walk-throughs, which the program commenced in accordance with Pac-12 guidelines last week.

Statuses for fall football seasons in the SEC, ACC and Big 12 remain uncertain.

Shortly after 11 a.m. on Monday, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey tweeted: “Best advice I’ve received since COVID-19: “Be patient. Take time when making decisions. This is all new & you’ll gain better information each day.” @SEC has been deliberate at each step since March…slowed return to practice…delayed 1st game to respect start of fall semester…Developed testing protocols…”

“We know concerns remain. We have never had a FB season in a COVID-19 environment. Can we play? I don’t know. We haven’t stopped trying. We support, educate and care for student-athletes every day, and will continue to do so…every day.”

When the conference’s revamped fall schedules were announced on July 31, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was asked flatly for his level of confidence that college football would be played.

“I’ll approach the answer to that question with a lot of humility, and … I don’t know,” said Scott, who also contracted and recovered from COVID-19 last month. “I think we are all trying to take a step at a time. We are cautiously optimistic, sitting here today. But there are elements outside our control that are going to have a lot of influence on that question.

“What’s happening in our communities? What’s happening in our campuses? A lot of that has to do with mask-wearing, social distancing. What happens when thousands of students come back to our campuses? None of us have the answer to that question.”

Ten days later, have the answers already arrived? Perhaps, but the Pac-12’s players may have also influenced the decision. Two days after the schedules were announced, a group of players — formally known as the #WeAreUnited movement, and including UW outside linebacker Joe Tryon and wide receiver Ty Jones — threatened to opt out of the 2020 season if demands surrounding COVID-19 protocols, racial injustice, player compensation, eligibility guarantees and more were not met. The Big Ten’s players followed with a similar uprising as well.

On Sunday, after reports surfaced that the season could be canceled, star Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence used the hashtag #WeWantToPlay on social media to advocate for its survival. Unsurprisingly, the hashtag spread to programs and conferences throughout the country. By late Sunday night, the #WeAreUnited and #WeWantToPlay movements had officially merged.

Lawrence and many others distributed a statement calling for the following:

  • Universal health and safety protocols to protect against COVID-19 in all conferences
  • The opportunity for players to opt out of the 2020 season
  • Guaranteed eligibility preservation for any player who chooses to opt out
  • The eventual formation of a college football players association “representative of the players of all Power 5 conferences”

On Monday morning, President Donald Trump even quote-tweeted Lawrence and added: “The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled. #WeWantToPlay”

It’s unclear to what degree the player — and president? — movement has influenced the thinking of university presidents. But on July 31, Pac-12 football was scheduled for the fall. And 10 days later, it’s all but over.

“I think over the next seven, 10, 14 days, there’s going to be more clarity on what the circumstances have to be for us to even be able to do contact practice,” UW athletics director Jen Cohen said in a phone interview with The Times on Thursday.

“We have a plan. Nobody has come out and said that we’re guaranteeing that we’re playing football or fall sports. The plan has always been that we’ll do those things in coordination with Pac-12 advisory and local public health officials, and that has not changed just because we announced the (revised conference-only football) schedule.”

This story will be updated.

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