One day after the Big Ten announced it would move forward with conference-only schedules for fall sports teams, the Pac-12 has decided to follow suit, creating more uncertainty around college football’s existence in 2020.
The Athletic was the first to report on the Pac-12’s decision and shortly thereafter the conference made an official announcement, stating in a news release, “the fall season for several Pac-12 sports, including football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball” will move to conference-only schedules.
In the news release, the conference also revealed it will be “delaying the start of 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.”
For Washington State, the ramifications of the Pac-12’s decision affect the first three games of the season. The Cougars were initially scheduled to open the 2020 season, the first under new coach Nick Rolovich, against Utah State in Logan on Sept. 3. Home games against Houston (Sept. 12) and Idaho (Sept. 19) will also be eliminated from the 2020 slate.
If college football officials and those within the Pac-12 decide it’s still safe to move forward with the fall season, WSU would open on Sept. 26 against Oregon State in Corvallis, and play its home opener on Oct. 3 against California.
“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 the conference 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.”
Voluntary workouts at WSU have been taking place since June 15.
The school was scheduled to begin mandatory athletic activities on Saturday, with fall camp opening approximately two weeks later on Aug. 3 – one month before what would’ve been the season opener at Utah State.
Unlike other schools, the Cougars haven’t announced COVID-19 test results since they brought in approximately 60 athletes last month, with no initial positive tests.
The NCAA recently extended its moratorium on recruiting, which prohibits prospective athletes from taking visits to college campuses – and restricts coaches from visiting athletes – until Aug. 31.
According to the conference statement, student-athletes who opt out of participating in athletic events during the 2020-21 academic year due to coronavirus concerns will have their scholarships honored and “will remain in good standing with their team.”
A school official confirmed to The Spokesman-Review that WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun has reached out to each of the Cougars’ three nonconference football opponents, though no decisions on potential reschedule dates have been made yet.
WSU’s opener at Utah State was the first part of a home-and-home series that’s scheduled to bring the Mountain West Aggies to Pullman on Sept. 4, 2021.
WSU would’ve been finishing off a home-and-home against Houston after beating Dana Holgorsen’s Cougars 31-24 last season in the Texas Advocare Kickoff at NRG Stadium in Houston.
The Week 3 game against Idaho would’ve marked the 92nd edition of the Battle of the Palouse and the Pac-12 Cougars would’ve been paying the Big Sky Vandals $550,000 to make the7-mile trek from Moscow. WSU and Idaho previously agreed to another game in 2025 in which the Cougars will be paying the Vandals $625,000.
In the coming weeks, there should be more clarity surrounding college football in 2020 and whether Pac-12 schools will allow teams to add additional conference games to the nine-game schedules they now face – something that would conceivably help them make up the revenue forfeited by skipping nonconference games, even if games are played with limited or no fans.
If it’s ultimately deemed unsafe to play college football this fall, some have pondered the concept of a spring model.
Earlier this week the Ivy League, an FCS conference in football, announced it would not be holding any athletic activities this fall, but determined it was too early to make a ruling on winter or spring sports, or whether fall sports could be moved to the spring.