College football in the western United States is back on the table, as the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences are resuming activities immediately.
The Pac-12 CEO Group announced the decision Thursday “based upon updated Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee recommendations that take into account material changes to testing capabilities, the prevalence of COVID-19 and cardiac issues, along with updated state and local health officials.”
“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports remains our guiding light and number one priority,” said Pac-12 CEO Group chair and University of Oregon president Michael Schill in the conference’s release. “Our CEO Group has taken a measured and thoughtful approach to today’s decision, including extensive consultation with stakeholders on the evolving information and data related to health and safety.”
Pac-12 football teams that have approval from their state and local health officials can start practice immediately and begin a seven-game conference schedule on Nov. 6 — the latest date for any conference attempting to play through COVID-19. Pac-12 men’s and women’s basketball teams can begin play on Nov. 25 — the first date the NCAA is allowing — and other winter sports in the conference can resume when the NCAA allows.
With the Pac-12 reversing its August decision to postpone the football season through the 2020 calendar year, every Power 5 conference is back on the schedule. The Big Ten had also postponed, but announced it will resume the weekend of Oct. 24. ACC and Big 12 teams have already played games, while the SEC is set to start this weekend.
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The restart hasn’t been without issues, as more than 20 games have been postponed or canceled due to COVID-19 complications.
However, the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee presented enough health information and recommendations that the conference decided to resume play, and enforce a Quidel daily rapid-results testing program.
“From the beginning of this crisis, our focus has been on following the science, data and counsel of our public health and infectious disease experts,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said. “Our agreement with Quidel to provide daily rapid-results testing has been a game-changer in enabling us to move forward with confidence that we can create a safe environment for our student-athletes while giving them the opportunity to pursue their dreams. At the same time, we will continue to monitor health conditions and data and be ready to adjust as required in the name of the health of all.”
“For universities utilizing daily antigen testing, at least one weekly PCR test will also be administered for each student-athlete, in addition to all positive tests to be confirmed with a PCR test,” the conference’s release reads. “All testing recommendations will be reviewed and updated as needed on an ongoing basis.
“The August 11 decision of the Pac-12 CEO Group to postpone sport competitions was based upon three central concerns cited by the Medical Advisory Committee: consistent testing capabilities across all Pac-12 universities, the prevalence of the virus in Pac-12 communities and nationally, and concerns related to possible cardiac concerns potentially associated with COVID-19. The decision to resume sport competitions today is based upon updated Medical Advisory Committee recommendations that point to material improvements in each of these three areas, along with updated state and local public health guidance.”
According to ESPN, no fans will be allowed until at least January and Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said fall sports other than football will continue to plan for a spring season.
The Mountain West will be back on the field sooner, announcing Thursday that the conference will start an eight-game schedule on Oct. 24.
ESPN reported that the Mountain West presidents voted Thursday to start the season, which was originally postponed Aug. 10. The conference is reportedly close to finalizing an agreement for daily rapid antigen testing.
Teams can immediately begin to hold 20 hours per week of athletic activities.
The announcement leaves the Mid-American as the lone Football Bowl Subdivision conference that doesn’t have a fall season scheduled. The Mid-American is reportedly holding a meeting Friday to vote on whether to begin a six-game season in November.
Related content: Mountain West Call Off Fall Sports