Four days of digital meetings with Pac 12 coaches have made one thing clear. There is little clear about the potential for an upcoming college football season. But there are many, very specific plans being created.
Pac 12 Season: “Everything Is On The Table”
Day four of the Pac 12 meetings included Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin, Cal’s Justin Wilcox, and Oregon’s Mario Cristobal.
Wilcox acknowledged that through coaches meetings, within the conference and on a national level, there are probably a dozen proposals of how to have a 2020-2021 college football season. He said, “Everything is on the table,” as far as he is concerned. But one idea that has been bandied about on a national level that is the least likely option is moving the season into post-January or into the Spring.
Sumlin rattled off a list of obstacles. High on the list was playing on top of the NFL schedule for combines, pro days, and the draft. It would also mean, for players who would be back the following season, playing 24+ games in a 12-month calendar year. Not even the NFL players are pulling that kind of load, and they get paid well. It is on the list of options, but safe to say it is way down the list. “It is going to affect things for the next year more than people are talking about,” Sumlin said. Wilcox called it, “an incredibly complex scenario.” He added, “ultimately if that is what is best for college football, we would be on board.”
Wilcox said the groups across the country have spent more time on the normal schedule. And then from there they alter into different models to create different options that could work across the country.
The winds are blowing strong in the southeast to start on time. Presidents from Southeastern Conference schools will vote next week to get athletes back on campus by mid-June at the latest. You did not misread that. State health mandates be damned, the school are going to vote strictly on an athletes-on-campus basis. While Nashville, TN remains a significant hot spot for the COVID-19 virus, which would impact Vanderbilt University, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey has made it clear. He anticipates his conference being ready to start on time.
Concerns have arisen this week as to whether the Pac 12 could be ready for that same plan. Thanks to some misreporting by some national outlets, there was a perception that CA colleges would be all on-line. There was also the storyline that LA County would be in an extended shut-down, which would impact USC and UCLA.
Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott acknowledged in a national interview Thursday morning that flexibility would be required within the conference so that different schools could comply with their state and local mandates and still try to work towards some semblance of a season. To that point, he said he did not expect any school to have a full complement of students back on campus by the Fall. But the schools would need to have some, with in-person classes, and appropriate safety measures to show they could handle the safety needs of the student population. He also noted he anticipated athletes would be among some of the earliest to be back on campus.
So as to the readiness of the Pac 12, and with regards to what the rest of the country is doing, Wilcox said it is about being fluid with the changes as the weeks go by. “To say it is going to be the same throughout every state and every conference is probably going to be difficult. There are so many dynamics involved. At the end of the day, each and every conference is going to make their decisions with some direction from the NCAA. And as long as our conference realizes the importance, and they do, of being aligned with the CFP, (College Football Playoff system), and all the entities involved, that is critical.”
Wilcox said all the schools are intent on playing and are aiming for a full schedule. He said they are working with being flexible as circumstances change on a state or local level. “We need to be working in concert with the other conferences and the CFP throughout the country to give us as normal an experience as we can.”
Part of the disconnect comes from the regional differences with the virus and state circumstances across the country. One plan discussed would be to push the start of the season back, perhaps to October, and reduce the games played. That would allow for states to see how a second wave of the virus impacts their population and the schools. But again, SEC schools seem determined to start on time. And from a national standpoint that conference often has the boat’s steering wheel.
Wilcox said there have been dozens of proposals. But he and the other coaches clearly prefer a unified plan across the country.
Sumlin said in mid-May there are more questions than answers. “We all want to play as much as we can play. But just like everything else, there are different states opening at different times. There are a lot of different things that can happen between now and the Fall. What is everybody doing? Is everyone on the same page? What does the nonconference schedule look like?”
For every answer we get on a national basis, we get four new questions.