Nine of the 10 FBS conferences are now set to end their seasons by December 20, when the college football playoff selection committee must decide which teams will play for the national championship and in the most lucrative bowls.
As of Friday, the Mid-American Conference, the first FBS league to postpone, could do 10 out of 10.
It’s all about playing football in winter and spring, whether it was a good idea to play during a pandemic? By the window. Not even a pandemic could stop college football in the schools that play it at the highest level.
“Much of the discussion between presidents and chancellors was about the pros and cons of starting in the fall versus January,” said Michael Schill, president of the University of Oregon, chief of the CEO group of the Pac-12. “The consensus view was that the benefits of starting in the fall were far greater than the benefits of starting in… winter.”
With the Pac-12 having obtained daily COVID-19 tests for its athletes and given the green light from state health officials and local authorities, CEOs voted unanimously to lift the Jan. 1 moratorium on sports competition.
“Things have changed since we first tackled this issue,” Schill said.
The Pac-12 men’s and women’s basketball seasons can begin on November 25, in line with the NCAA’s recently announced opening date. The championship soccer game is slated for Dec. 18, putting the conference back on the line for bigger postseason games – and the multi-million dollar payouts that go with it.
It was August 11 when the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced they were postponing their football seasons, a dark day in college sports that came six months after the March Madness pandemic was canceled.
Six leagues have advanced, including the mighty Southeastern Conference, which starts playing this weekend. The Big 12, the Atlantic Coast Conference and three more have been launched since Labor Day weekend.
This college football season at each conference for itself seems to have five different start dates.
Some teams can play up to 12 games while others only have six. And that doesn’t even count what appears to be the inevitable disruptions to come. There have already been 21 games postponed or canceled since August 26 due to teams facing varying levels of COVID-19 issues, including four this week that were erased from Saturday’s schedule.
As for the bowling season, it could possibly start before the conference champions are crowned. The NCAA Football Oversight Committee on Thursday recommended that bowling games can be played as early as December 1 and that the minimum bowl eligibility requirements (record .500 against the FBS opposition) be lifted for 2020.
The Pac-12 will look to squeeze seven games in seven weeks, borrowing an idea from the Big Ten and allowing all of their teams to play an extra inter-divisional game on the Championship weekend.
“We want to be in the best position, quite frankly, to be involved in the CFP conversation, but also to accommodate bowling games at the highest level,” said Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson. “We want to play.”
The turning point for the sport’s comeback in the Pac-12 came on September 3, when it struck a deal with diagnostic testing company Quidel that will give every school the ability to conduct daily antigen testing on their athletes.
Still, it took the conference three weeks to turn the tide in fall football, leaving it to start later and expected to play fewer games than its Power Five peers.
“I don’t think we’re late,” Schill said. “I think we are acting on purpose. We act in the best interests of the students. We waited until we could, if not guarantee, protect their health and safety. ”
Schill said state and local restrictions in California and Oregon to stem the spread of the virus have prevented six Pac-12 teams from playing football and slowed the conference’s return-to-play decision.
“These barriers came down once the daily antigen test was available,” Schill said.
There is still work to be done for the Pac-12 and Mountain West schools to gain approval from local authorities in northern California and now Colorado. Due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Boulder County, Colo., Officials on Thursday halted gatherings for college-aged residents for two weeks. This includes sporting events.
“We will continue to work with our public health officials to comply with the public health order and be part of the community solution,” said Colorado athletic director Rick George. “The only thing I have learned during this pandemic is not to go too high and not to fall too low.
No fans will be allowed at Pac-12 sporting events taking place on campus. The loss of ticket revenue and dwindling number of games will cost Pac-12 schools tens of millions of dollars, but it could have been even worse without football at all.
The annual CFP payout to the Power Five conferences is $ 66 million. Conferences get $ 6 million for each team they have selected for the National Semifinals and $ 4 million for each team they get in the other four six New Years Bowls.
“It has nothing to do with money,” Schill said. “It was never mentioned as a consideration. The losses suffered by our schools, especially our sports departments, are enormous. The amount of money that will be saved as a result of resuming play is minimal compared to the losses. ”
AP Sports editor Pat Graham contributed to this report.
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