UPDATE: 5:20 p.m.: We might have West Coast football as soon as Halloween.
Pac-12 presidents and chancellors will meet tomorrow. https://t.co/I3oiqG4Yo4— John Canzano (@johncanzanobft) September 17, 2020
Now that the Big Ten is officially joining the Fall football party in 2020, we might see the Pac-12 jump in as well.
Statement from Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott on positive developments from governors of California and Oregon: pic.twitter.com/bZVuGT6vuW— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) September 16, 2020
There was a big issue with the California Pac-12 schools where they could practice but only in groups of 12. That makes things difficult for a sport that requires 22 humans on the field at all times. Also they couldn’t hit each other. If you want to lose some IQ points, read this terrific piece from Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News about the restrictions that were in place until yesterday from the state of California.
Well, I asked that very question of the official, who did not want to be quoted but was willing to explain the state’s rules.
The answer was this:
Teams can find work-arounds to 11-on-11 practices.
They can have walk-throughs, he suggested. They can practice against air. They can use Virtual Reality and tackle dummies. They can use mental exercises.
Those are all means by which teams can conduct a practice and prepare for a game, he said.
I responded that at some point during the season, during a game week, a football team needed 22 players on the field, offense against defense, 11 against 11, with some degree of contact.
The official responded that teams could prepare by playing five against five.
Five-on-five works for the other revenue college sport that is coming back, but not so hot for pigskin. And as we found out during BYU’s blowout of a Navy team that had zero contact in practice, it doesn’t end well for teams not putting on pads and hitting at some point to get ready to play.
But California Governor Gavin Newsom and his office have stepped in to allow full practices, which makes a path to playing much more realistic.
Sources: After speaking to #Pac12 commish Larry Scott, Newsom’s office reached out to #USC officials. Plan is to fast track revision to controversial 12-person cohort max. That shifts focus to local health, an easier hurdle for the schools. This is big.— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) September 16, 2020
And that shift to local health has been aided by the Pac-12 already, as they have signed a deal with Quidel to provide antigen testing of all athletes The first league to create such an arrangement, the tests come back in just 15 minutes helping to keep players and coaches safe. For a league that’s often the red-headed stepchild of the above-the-line Power Five, the proactive work done here should have big benefits in the long-term.
If the Pac-12 is back by Halloween, that means all the teams that would reasonably be eligible for the College Football Playoff (sorry, MACtion!) will have a regular season and conference championship game to qualify for the final four slots.
It still feels like a very unusual season without many fans or inter-conference games or even the band in the stands, but it’s still college football. And if everyone can stay healthy and not be canceling games due to outbreaks throughout teams and campuses, we might actually be able to crown a champion of the 2020 season.
Which seemed just about impossible just six weeks ago.