Earlier in the day, Scott had pointed to state and local public health officials in California and Oregon, which account for half of the Pac-12′s member schools, as the main impediments to his conference emulating the Big Ten in attempting to play football this fall. The two conferences announced on the same day in August that they would postpone their football seasons amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, while the other three Power 5 conferences decided to proceed this fall.
In explaining his conference’s decision, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said it “met standards that we’re very comfortable with for the benefit of our student-athletes.”
Following the initial comments by Scott, who pointed to the conference’s new daily testing capability, Newsom declared Wednesday that his state was not standing in the way of the Pac-12.
“I want to make this crystal clear,” the governor asserted. “Nothing in the state guidelines denies the ability for the Pac-12 to resume. Quite the contrary. That’s been a misrepresentation of the facts.”
California’s guidelines, however, appear to make it very difficult for its four Pac-12 schools — Cal-Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA and USC — to adequately prepare their football teams for competition. According to the San Jose Mercury News, college athletes in that state are limited to close-contact practices in “cohorts” of no more than six to 12 individuals, which would render full, 11-on-11 training sessions impossible.
Ways to get around those restrictions, as suggested to the Mercury News by a California health department official, included: walk-throughs; practicing “against air”; using “Virtual Reality and tackle dummies”; and engaging in “mental exercises.” Football teams could also have full contact in five-on-five drills with different groups of players, the official noted, while emphasizing that the guidelines are aimed at limiting any possible spread of the virus.
The Mercury News later reported that after speaking with Scott, Newsom’s office contacted USC about pushing through a fast-tracked revision to the rule that limits practice cohorts to a maximum of 12 athletes.
USC football players on Tuesday shared a letter to Newsom in which they pleaded for a chance to compete this fall. “The current reality,” they wrote, “is that there are too many restrictions imposed by state and local public health officials in California that prevent us from resuming practices and competition.”
The players noted a partnership announced by the Pac-12 earlier in the month with a diagnostic testing company that promised to provide rapid results for frequent coronavirus testing of conference athletes. Scott also touted that partnership Wednesday in his statement, in which he said, “Our California and Oregon universities will now each individually and immediately reach out to their relevant county public health officials to seek clarification on what is required to achieve the same clearance to resume contact practice and competition.”
A spokesman for Brown said in a statement that she granted requests by Oregon and Oregon State for exemptions to sports-related guidelines issued by the state’s health department. Brown’s office stressed that it could not “move forward in the process” until it received a written plan from the Pac-12 and details about the rapid testing proposal.
Top conference officials are reportedly set to meet Friday to discuss, among other things, aspects of potential basketball and football seasons starting this fall. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the start date for men’s and women’s Division I basketball competition has been moved to Nov. 25.
Two Power 5 conferences, the ACC and the Big 12, have begun their football seasons. The SEC kicks off on Sept. 26, while the Big Ten plans to start on the weekend of Oct. 24. ESPN reported that a source indicated the Pac-12 believes it might be able to begin playing football in late October.