By Jeremy Rubin
There will be Pac-12 football this fall.
Earlier today, the Pac-12 CEO Group announced in a written statement that multiple Pac-12 sports are set to return before the end of 2020. The decision follows updated recommendations from the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee, and reverses an earlier postponement until Jan. 1, 2021.
Football across the Pac-12 will begin a seven-game, Conference-only season on Nov. 6 with a Pac-12 Championship scheduled for Dec. 18. This timing will allow Pac-12 teams to compete for a College Football Playoff appearance in early 2021.
Santa Clara County restrictions currently do not allow for athletic practices or competition, but the University is in talks with the county about what health and safety protocols are needed to restart practices.
If cleared to play by local government, Stanford will face all the Pac-12 North teams and one Pac-12 South team yet to be determined. Fans will not be permitted at any Pac-12 athletic events until January 2021, at which point the decision will be reexamined based on current health and safety measures in place.
“Our approach to resuming athletic activity at Stanford emphasizes three things,” wrote Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne in an email to the University community. “It provides first and foremost for the health and safety of our student-athletes, as well as our broader community. It gives our students the final decision about whether or not to play. And, it allows them to gradually resume activities that cannot be done online, as we also have been doing in other areas of university activity.”
Tessier-Lavigne added that the decision to return was based on three main considerations: “first, prevalence of COVID-19 in the community; second, the availability of daily testing; and third, increased insight into potential cardiac effects of COVID-19 infection and new protocols for monitoring and managing them.”
Since then, some football players have continued to live in the area in off-campus housing, while others were approved to live in on-campus residences through the University housing process.
“I want to thank President Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Drell for their extremely thoughtful leadership throughout this process,” said Stanford Director of Athletics Bernard Muir in a press release. “We are eager for all of our student-athletes to have the opportunity to play this season, assuming it can be done safely and with the appropriate public health authority approvals. To that end, we have been in touch with Santa Clara County and look forward to continuing to work with them to create a path for our student-athletes to train and compete. As we continue those conversations, the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, coaches and community remains our top priority.”
In the same announcement, the Pac-12 also said that men’s and women’s basketball will begin on Nov. 25, in line with the official NCAA start date. Wrestling, women’s gymnastics, and men’s and women’s swimming and diving have also been cleared by the conference, but start dates for the respective sports have not yet been determined.
“We made a commitment to our student-athletes, when they came to Stanford, to offer them the best possible academic and athletic experience,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “The rest of our conference, and the other Power 5 conferences, are now proceeding with competition. We have concluded that, as long as we are able to provide for our students’ health and safety in rigorous ways, and allow them to make the final decision whether or not to play, there is no value in requiring them to miss a full year of competition.”