Pac-12 football to consider fall return to play Thursday as league aims to start season Oct. 31 or Nov. 7


The Pac-12 is in the midst of considering a return to play for college football this fall, league sources told CBS Sports last week, with the conference set to meet Thursday to discuss whether it can overcome its remaining obstacles in order to take the field. If so, the Pac-12 may vote on whether to play by the end of the meeting.

“We still have a bunch of meetings that are going to happen these next few days,” a Pac-12 source said last week. “I’m skeptical … but all options are still on the table.”

After the Pac-12 CEO Group’s previously scheduled meeting last Friday, the league announced that it was not ready to vote on whether to return to play this fall and will instead meet Thursday with the goal of making a decision.

If the Pac-12 CEO Group allows a return of football, a shortened season could start on Oct. 31 or Nov. 7, league sources tell CBS Sports. There is a preference to start Oct. 31 in order for the Pac-12 to get in as many games as possible before the College Football Playoff Selection Committee makes it choices on Dec. 20. If it is forced to wait an additional week, the league would play one fewer game as it is believed the Pac-12 is aiming for six weeks of preparation before kickoff.

The difference being the Pac-12’s potential return to play and the Big Ten’s decision is that Big Ten teams were raring to go, already utilizing the NCAA 12-hour weekly limit on activities when they announced a return. Pac-12 schools located in California and Oregon have been limited by local health restrictions, some of which prohibit gatherings of larger than 12 persons.

Those local health restrictions — specifically across those two states but in all that are home to Pac-12 teams — remain the biggest hurdle in getting all the teams together on the same start date. Because of the fires on the West Coast, some teams haven’t been unable to practice due to air quality conditions. 

The Colorado Buffaloes were thought to be ready to roll football-wise until Thursday. That’s when the city of Boulder, Colorado, banned all public gatherings of persons aged 18-22 — including for athletic activities — until at least Oct. 8. There have been at least 1,400 suspected COVID-19 cases on campus since Aug. 24. 

Athletic directors at USC and UCLA spoke with Los Angeles County health officials last Wednesday and were led to believe county restrictions could be eased if the Pac-12 approves a return to play, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom last Wednesday lifted state restrictions that kept schools from conducting fully padded practices. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown had previously lifted restrictions that impacted Oregon and Oregon State. Those moves now allows schools to work directly with local health officials.

Elsewhere, the Mountain West is considering a return to play in late October, sources told CBS Sports on Monday. Its goal would be to play an eight-game, conference-only schedule beginning Oct. 24 with a league championship game on Dec. 19, the same format as the Big Ten recently adopted.

In April, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson raised the possibility the league could play a season without all its members. When asked again last week by CBS Sports, Thompson said it “has not been determined” if all 12 schools could go forward.

A key point: Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose State are impacted by the same health restrictions as those in the Pac-12.

At some point, the FBS commissioners will have to decide what constitutes eligibility for the College Football Playoff due to teams playing a disparate number of games mostly against teams from only their own conferences.





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