Just one day after the Big Ten decided to cancel the leagues non-conference games, the Pac-12 followed suit. This has been rumored for a while as one of the potential options the league could go, and was a pretty heavy favorite. This decision means the Utes won’t open the season against BYU at Rice-Eccles, won’t travel to Wyoming (who cares about that one), and will miss the game at home against Montana State. A pretty weak non-conference schedule, so not really any games to be too heart broken over missing, but that is at least three games that we will not see in 2020. The Utah/BYU series will resume in 2021 in Provo, but I kind of wonder if we see some scheduling tweaks to get that one back in SLC to avoid playing on the road back-to-back games against them, probably too many pieces to move to do that, but something to consider.
The Pac-12 is now moving forward with some plans on what they could do next. The two options that really stand out are basically just staying status quo with the nine game conference season, which means Utah would start in the middle of September against Cal in Berkeley. The other train of thought is that the league could go to a 10-game schedule and add one more league opponent to each teams schedule. That means that Utah would add either Stanford or Oregon to the slate. In an ideal scenario, I believe the 10-game model would be best, but in COVID-world, I think nine games is the wiser move.
The next domino to fall, at least for the U, is what does game day look like for the U? Do we see fans? Half capacity Rice-Eccles? No fans? I think we’ll know more about that probably in August. I do think, especially with how things are going, the reality of a college football season is starting to become more in doubt. Obviously, the TV contracts are massive, so the incentive to play the games is incredibly high, but the liability to players, coaches, staff, and others is also incredibly high, and will administrators want to take on that liability? I don’t know, but if things don’t improve, I think 2020 is in jeopardy for football. I do think we may see the season start, but will we see an end? So many questions in the realm of all of athletics at this time, especially the mega money driver of college football.
Here’s the official release from the Utah SID and Mark Harlan’s statement:
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah—The Pac-12 Conference CEO Group announced today an adjustment of the 2020 schedules for Football, Volleyball and Soccer to a Conference-only model. This was done to safeguard the health and well-being of student-athletes, coaches, staff and all associated with athletics events, and to provide the maximum flexibility in scheduling because of COVID-19. ”While we support the Pac-12 Conference’s decision today to only play conference games this fall in football, volleyball and soccer, we are disappointed for our student-athletes, coaches and fans,” said Mark Harlan, Director of Athletics. “We know it is particularly difficult to miss the rivalry matchups with BYU in these sports, and we look forward to continuing those as soon as we are able. These are truly unprecedented times, and we are working diligently to determine appropriate solutions while prioritizing the health and safety of everyone involved. Our conference and university leadership has provided great support and direction, informed by leading health experts and data. We will work with our colleagues at each of the non-conference institutions impacted by today’s decision to reschedule those contests, and we will provide more information about our schedules and our home events when they become available.” In addition, the Pac-12 announced it will delay the start of mandatory athletic activities, until a series of health and safety indicators, which have recently trended in a negative direction, provided sufficient positive data to enable a move to a second phase of return-to-play activities.