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Will ‘breakthrough’ COVID deal allow for Pac-12 football? Conference makes no promises

(Rice-Eccles Stadium. Credit: Scott G WInterton, Deseret News, file)

SAN FRANCISCO – The Pac-12 Conference announced a new deal that will allow athletes to be tested for COVID-19 every day. Officials are calling it a big step in resuming play, but does it mean fans will see football before the end of the year? 

Conference officials are making no guarantees. 

During a press conference Thursday, Pac-12- Commissioner Larry Scott broke the news of a deal they reached with the Quidel Corporation, which allows universities to test athletes every day for COVID-19 and gives results back within 15 minutes.  The “Sofia 2” devices are scheduled to be on each Pac-12 school by the end of September.

 

So, football can resume by October — right? 

Not really. Scott said there are roadblocks well beyond the conference’s control.  For instance, training can’t even begin yet for some student-athletes.

“We still have six universities, our four California schools and our two Oregon schools, that don’t have the requisite approvals from public health authorities to engage in contact practice,” Scott said.  “Even if we were ready to start tomorrow, we couldn’t start what we think of as training camp.”

The decision to push back all sports until the beginning of 2021 was made back in August with the latest information they had at the time, according to Scott.  Universities are still operating under the assumption the conference will stick with that plan.

(Construction crews working on the south end of Rice-Eccles Stadium. Credit: Paul Nelson)

However, Scott said the deal will now allow them to reconsider that decision.

“We’ve got scenario planning groups made up of our coaches, athletic directors and other football administrators,” he said. 

That includes University of Utah Athletics Director Mark Harlan, who sits on the Football Oversight Committee.

If, hypothetically, the conference decides to play football before Jan. 1, University of Utah officials said the construction at Rice-Eccles Stadium will not get in the way.  Half the field is covered while crews are expanding the south end, but that covering can be moved if the season resumes.

How does this partnership impact basketball?  Again, conference officials aren’t sure yet. 

The season was originally scheduled to begin Nov. 8, but that may change for every college across the country.

“The NCAA, as you know, is in the process of reconsidering the start date for basketball, considering later dates,” Scott said. “We have certainly encouraged that.  We’ve pushed for that, strongly.”