(AP Sports) – Due to health policies in two states within the conference, any plans for the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten in returning to football are on hold for now.
The Big Ten changed course Wednesday and said it will begin an eight-game football schedule on Oct. 23. The Pac-12 has also reconsidered starting its football season this fall, but does not have approval from state and local health officials in California and Oregon to conduct contact practices.
Earlier this month, the Pac-12 announced a partnership that would give the conference’s schools the capacity to perform daily, rapid COVID-19 tests on athletes. The rapid testing was seen as an avenue for the conference to begin playing football and other sports sooner than expected.
The Pac-12 CEO Group is scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the conference’s options.
“We are hopeful that our new daily testing capability can help satisfy public health official approvals in California and Oregon to begin contact practice and competition,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “We are equally closely monitoring the devastating fires and air quality in our region at this time. We are eager for our student-athletes to have the opportunity to play this season, as soon as it can be done safely and in accordance with public health authority approvals.”
The door for playing in California may already be open. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaking later Wednesday, said nothing in his state is preventing the conference from moving forward with football and other sports.
“They can resume football,” Newsom said. “There is nothing in guidelines that says Pac-12 cannot move forward. Period, full stop. I just want to make that crystal clear.”
Newsom said he spoke to Scott earlier and that he has been working with the NCAA on testing, along with figuring out how to keep athletes and coaches safe.
A spokesman for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said the state also is working to find a way for football to return.
“Governor Brown’s primary focus right now is on the ongoing wildfire response to save lives and protect homes across Oregon, including in Lane County,” Charles Boyle said in a statement. “When it comes to college football, we all want to see the Ducks and Beavers take the field again. The Oregon Health Authority is in the process of working with the universities to review their plans for team practices, to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches, and the wider university community.”
The Big Ten and Pac-12 decided last month to postpone all fall sports until January due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
Football in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12 started last week, with the Southeastern Conference set to kick off its season on Sept. 26. The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted Tuesday to change course and begin football with all 14 teams next month.
President Donald Trump pushed for the Big Ten to get back to football and had a similar sentiment for the Pac-12. “I want to recommend Pac-12, you’re the only one now,” Trump said. “Open up, open up Pac-12.”