Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports Images

Pac-12 football plans remain in holding pattern

1 Comment

The Pac-12 took a significant step toward joining the Big Ten in playing football in the fall, getting clearance to hold full-fledged practices from the states of California and Oregon.

Early Wednesday, the Big Ten grabbed headlines by changing course and agreeing to set an an eight-game football schedule that would start the weekend of Oct. 24.

The Pac-12 also has reconsidered starting its football season this fall, but it has more hurdles to clear. Half of its schools have been unable to ramp up preparation for the season because of restrictions put in place by state and local authorities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Later Wednesday, the Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott announced a breakthrough with the California and Oregon governors that was helped along by the conference’s plans to soon begin testing athletes daily for the virus.

“The Pac-12 welcomes today’s statements by Governor Newsom of California and Governor Brown of Oregon that state public health officials will allow for contact practice and return to competition, and that there are no state restrictions on our ability to play sports in light of our adherence to strict health and safety protocols and stringent testing requirements, including our recently announced partnership with Quidel which will enable daily rapid results testing,” Scott said.

He added: “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.”

Earlier this month, the Pac-12 announced a partnership that would give the conference’s schools the capacity to perform daily, rapid COVID-19 tests on athletes. Scott has called the testing a “game-changer” and it certainly proved to be so in the Big Ten. That league’s university presidents unanimously voted to return to competition in all fall sports and said their schools will begin daily antigen testing on Sept. 30.

The Pac-12 CEO Group is scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the conference’s options. Because of the restrictions, it might take the teams that had been limited, including conference favorites Oregon and Southern California, more than a month to be ready to play. An Oct. 24 start, lined up with the Big Ten, could be challenging.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Scott spoke Wednesday. While there was some confusion about how the state’s rule limiting athletic activities to groups of no more than 12 could allow for football practice, ultimately things landed in a good place for the conference.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s spokesman said the two Pac-12 schools in that state met with the the Oregon Health Authority on Wednesday to discuss COVID-19 heath and safety plans for football and ask for a exemption to current sports guidance. An exemption has already be given to Oregon professional sports teams.

“We have granted that request, and, under the new guidance, OHA must receive written plans for approval,” Charles Boyle said in a statement.

Boyle said no plans had been received yet from the Pac-12.

“We want Oregon and Oregon State players to be able to focus on football while protecting their health and safety,” Boyle said. “We also want to ensure that team practices will not be derailed by a COVID-19 outbreak that would threaten the health not only of the players and coaches, but of their university communities and the wide communities of Eugene and Corvallis.”

The Big Ten and Pac-12 decided Aug. 11 to postpone all fall sports until January due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Football in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12 started last week, with the Southeastern Conference set to kick off its season on Sept. 26.

President Donald Trump pushed for the Big Ten to get back to football and had a similar sentiment for the Pac-12.

“I want to recommend Pac-12, you’re the only one now,” Trump said. “Open up, open up Pac-12.”

‘Game-changer’: Rapid, daily virus testing coming to Pac-12

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
3 Comments

The Pac-12 could be playing football and basketball sooner than expected after the conference announced Thursday that each of the 12 schools will soon have the capacity to perform daily, rapid COVID-19 tests on athletes.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott called the deal with Quidel Corporation a “game-changer.”

He said the ability to test athletes every day and receive results in 15 minutes could lead to the Pac-12 getting back in the game before the Jan. 1 date set by the conference’s university presidents when they postponed the fall sports season on Aug. 11.

“This is a very important and significant step, but there are other considerations that will go into our return-to-play plans,” Scott said.

The Pac-12’s six schools in California and Oregon are still restricted from holding full practices because of state mandates to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. However, the professional football teams in California have been given permission to proceed with normal preparations for a season that starts Sept. 13.

“Even if we were ready to start tomorrow we couldn’t,” Scott said. “There’s more to be done for sure in terms of working with health officials.”

The Pac-12 said tests and Quidel’s Sofia 2 testing machines are expected to be delivered to the conference’s schools by late September. The machines can perform what is known as a point-of-care antigen test.

Doug Bryant, president and CEO of Quidel Corporation, said the company has agreements with several schools that are already using its rapid tests. He declined to say which schools, and added the partnership with the Pac-12 is different from its other deals because the company will be providing the conference with the capacity for daily COVID-19 testing.

“Within the last month, we have doubled our shipping capacity,” Bryant said. “As we continue to ramp up production, we will have the ability to help other conferences if asked.”

Back in August, when the Pac-12 postponed its season, its medical advisors had recommended the frequency of testing athletes be dictated by the seven-day rate of positive tests and daily new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the counties where each school is located.

At the time, that meant Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, Southern California and UCLA would all have needed to test athletes daily. Several other schools would have been required to test every other day.

Scott said when the conference made its decision to postpone fall sports it did not think it would have access to this kind of rapid testing until November at the earliest.

The conferences forging ahead with football starting this month – including the Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference – have indicated they plan to test their football players three times per week.

“Having the opportunity and ability to identify and immediately remove someone who has the potential to be infected prior to stepping on the practice field really reduces the risk and removes the gap that currently exists with traditional laboratory testing,” said Dr. Doug Aukerman from Oregon State. He leads the Pac-12’s medical advisory committee.

A Jan. 1 return to competition could also put the Pac-12 behind the rest of the country in basketball. Basketball season typically starts in early November, but Scott said the NCAA is looking into delaying until November or early December.

Rapid, daily testing improves the Pac-12’s chances of starting on time.

“So I’m very optimistic that we’ll have a season,” Washington basketball coach Mike Hopkins said. “I think we definitely will, especially with the way that this testing and this partnership is moved forward.”

The Big Ten postponed fall sports the same day as the Pac-12. While the Big Ten has been getting crushed with criticism from all sides, including a lawsuit by Nebraska players demanding its decision be overturned, the Pac-12 has presented a a unified front in support of postponing.

Scott said he considers it a “high priority” for the Pac-12 and Big Ten, Rose Bowl partners, to align their return to football. The Big Ten has discussed plans for starting a football season as early as Thanksgiving weekend, though the conference has been more focused on an early January start.

“Not only, for our student athletes, could we have a Pac-12 championship game and champion, but it’d be awesome to have some of the traditional postseason opportunities the Pac-12 and Big Ten have enjoyed with each other over many, many decades,” Scott said.

Parsons, Sewell among AP preseason All-Americans not playing

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons and Oregon tackle Penei Sewell are among 11 players selected to The Associated Press preseason All-America first team who are not slated to play this fall.

The team was selected by 47 AP poll voters, who were asked to consider all Division I players – even those who had already opted out of the season or whose teams had postponed football.

The results show just how much star power will be missing from this pandemic-altered college football season. Twelve second-team All-Americans will also not play in the fall, including quarterback Justin Fields from defending Big Ten champion and preseason No. 2 Ohio State.

The Big Ten, Pac-12, Mid-American and Mountain West conferences have decided to try to play football in the second semester. As of now, Fields has given no indication that he won’t be with the Buckeyes if they do. Same goes for Sewell, the Outland Trophy winner and potential top-five NFL draft pick, and Oregon teammate Kayvon Thibodeaux, a sophomore defensive end.

Parsons is among a handful of stars who have said they are gone for good, opting out of the season to concentrate on preparing for the draft. Along with Parsons, Purdue’s Rondale Moore, selected as an all-purpose player, Miami defensive end Gregory Rousseau and Pittsburgh defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman were first-team All-America opt outs.

The All-Americans who will play this season include Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard and LSU receiver Ja'Marr Chase.

FIRST TEAM

Offense

Quarterback – Trevor Lawrence, junior, Clemson.

Running backs – Chuba Hubbard, junior, Oklahoma State; Travis Etienne, senior, Clemson.

Tackles – x-Penei Sewell, junior, Oregon; Alex Leatherwood, senior, Alabama.

Guards – x-Wyatt Davis, junior, Ohio State; Trey Smith, senior, Tennessee.

Center – Creed Humphrey, junior, Oklahoma.

Tight end – x-Pat Freiermuth, junior, Penn State.

Receivers – Ja’Marr Chase, junior, LSU; DeVonta Smith, senior, Alabama.

All-purpose player – y-Rondale Moore, junior, Purdue.

Kicker – x-Keith Duncan, senior, Iowa.

DEFENSE

Ends – x-Kayvon Thibodeaux, sophomore, Oregon; y-Gregory Rousseau, junior, Miami.

Tackles – Marvin Wilson, senior, Florida State; y-Jaylen Twyman, junior, Pitt.

Linebackers – y-Micah Parsons, junior, Penn State; x-Hamilcar Rashed Jr., senior, Oregon State; Dylan Moses, senior, Alabama.

Cornerbacks – Derek Stingley Jr., sophomore, LSU; x-Shaun Wade, junior, Ohio State.

Safeties – Richard LeCounte, senior, Georgia; Andre Cisco, junior, Syracuse.

Punter – Max Duffy, senior, Kentucky.

SECOND TEAM

Offense

Quarterback – x-Justin Fields, junior, Ohio State.

Running backs – Najee Harris, senior, Alabama; Kenneth Gainwell, sophomore, Memphis.

Tackles – Samuel Cosmi, junior, Texas; x-Cole Van Lanen, senior, Wisconsin.

Guards – x-Nolan Laufenberg, senior, Air Force; x-Alijah Vera-Tucker, junior, Southern California.

Center – x-Tyler Linderbaum, junior, Iowa.

Tight end – Charlie Kolar, junior, Iowa State.

Receivers – Tylan Wallace, senior, Oklahoma State; y-Rashod Bateman, junior, Minnesota.

All-purpose player – Jaylen Waddle, junior, Alabama.

Kicker – Gabe Brkic, sophomore, Oklahoma.

Defense

Ends – Carlos Basham, senior, Wake Forest; Quincy Roche, senior, Miami.

Tackles – y-Jay Tufele, junior, Southern California; x-Levi Onwuzurike, senior, Washington.

Linebackers – Chazz Surratt senior, North Carolina; Nick Bolton, junior, Missouri; x-Paddy Fisher, senior, Northwestern.

Cornerbacks – Patrick Surtain II, junior, Alabama; y-Caleb Farley, junior, Virginia Tech.

Safeties – x-Jevon Holland, junior, Oregon; Trevon Moehrig, junior, TCU.

Punter – x-Adam Korsak, junior, Rutgers.

(x-team not scheduled to play in the fall; y-opted out of season)