PORTLAND, Ore. — The Pac-12 Conference is making a push to play football in 2020.
"Today was a big step towards that," said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Following an announcement the Big Ten Conference would kick off the football season the weekend of October 24, the Pac-12 took action.
"Some good progress today with the governors in California and Oregon, sending some strong signals that they’re supportive and state regulations won’t be hurdles," Scott said. "This combined with access to daily testing, which we secured, gives medical professionals comfort that we can return safely, so we’re now going to figure out what this all means.
"We still need approval from local health officials in counties in California and Oregon, but we’re going to push the envelope. Our student-athletes want to play, our coaches want to play, our schools want to do so if we can do so safely and today was a big step forward towards that."
With the conference acquiring daily COVID-19 testing from the Quidel Corporation, Scott said there's a possibility football could be played by late October. One month ago, the Pac-12 announced the postponement of all sports competitions until at least the end of the 2020 calendar year.
"Our best-case scenario is six weeks practice, training camp, start end of October, early November, but that is still subject to county approval, which we don’t have yet, so that’s the best case," Scott said on SportsCenter.
"We’re going to do everything possible to play this fall if we can, play a Pac-12 championship game and have teams compete for a college football playoff if it’s possible."
On Wednesday afternoon, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University met with the Oregon Health Authority to discuss COVID-19 health and safety plans for their football teams. They asked and were granted exemption to OHA sports guidance, the same exemption other professional sports teams in Oregon have received, opening the door for the Ducks and Beavers to get back to contact practices and eventually competition.
But they must submit their plans in writing and it must be approved before that can happen.
Charles Boyle, spokesperson for Oregon Governor Kate Brown, released this statement:
"Governor Brown today is meeting with firefighters, first responders, and members of the incident management teams who have been on the frontlines working to save Oregonian lives and homes from the devastation of wildfires.
"Representatives of the University of Oregon and Oregon State University athletic departments met with the Oregon Health Authority this afternoon to discuss their COVID-19 health and safety plans for their football teams. The universities have asked for an exemption to OHA’s sports guidance, just as Oregon’s professional sports team have been given. We have granted that request, and, under the new guidance, OHA must receive written plans for approval. (The full language of the guidance is below.)
"Let me stress that, up to this point, we have received no written operating procedures for approval from the Pac12 for the upcoming season under the new guidance, and we have no details from the conference about their new rapid testing proposal. Until we have those details, we can’t move forward in the process.
"We want Oregon and Oregon State’s players to be able to focus on football while protecting their health and safety. We also want to ensure that team practices will not be derailed by a COVID-19 outbreak that would threaten the health not only of the players and coaches, but of their university communities and the wider communities in Eugene and Corvallis."
OHA Sports Exemption for Pac-12 Conference Institutions
Pac-12 Conference teams wishing to play in the State of Oregon must submit protocols to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Governor’s office to ensure training, competition and play aligns with all public health guidance and county phase requirements. Training, competition and play cannot resume until protocols are reviewed and approved by the Governor’s office and OHA. Pac-12 Conference sports that are practiced and played within the State of Oregon are exempt from all other sports guidance issued, including the Statewide Collegiate, Semi-Professional, and Minor League Sports, Limited Return to Play guidance. Pac-12 Conference sports teams are expected to adhere to the standards developed by each of their leagues around practice, playing, contact tracing, testing, quarantine and any other applicable area of consideration, including protocols approved by OHA and Governor’s Office. Pac-12 Conference sports events that are played in Oregon must comply with the OHA Phase Two Reopening Guidance – Venue and Event Operators.