The Pac-12 this summer decided not to play football fall 2020 in part because it didn’t feel it had the access to rapid COVID-19 tests it needed to safely carry out a season. Now, with daily testing coming to Pac-12 programs sooner than expected, a 2020 return isn’t entirely out of the picture.
Though the Pac-12 is considering a return to play as early as mid-November, it is far from coming to pass. A league source tells CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd that the Pac-12 is in “a definite holding pattern” because six of its 12 members — located in Oregon and California — are unable to hold contact practices due to local ordinances. Until those ordinances are lifted, efforting toward an earlier start to the season is fruitless.
ESPN’s Heather Dinich first reported that the conference’s “most aggressive” return plan is around mid-to-late November.
The Pac-12 initially said it would not play fall sports until spring 2021 at the earliest. In doing so, it explained that it did not believe the league could acquire adequate testing until November. Now that the Pac-12 has entered an agreement with a private company to conduct daily rapid testing of its athletes beginning in late September, its ideal start-play timeline has been moved up.
As Dinich explained: “While the new testing systems will be on every campus by the end of the month, the league still expects to need a short time to train staff how to use them, and ensure the proper testing protocols are in place.”
Furthermore, coaches will likely request as many as six weeks of practice to get their teams up to speed.
A Pac-12 source previously told Dodd in early September that it would be a “huge hurdle” for the league to pull off a fall 2020 football season given the parameters set forth by the league’s medical advisory group.
While access to more testing and information has shaped the way decision-makers view the viability of playing football sooner rather than later, ultimately, a quick turnaround is going to be hard to orchestrate in an uncertain, ever-changing climate.