PAC-12 Cancels 2020 Football Season

In a sudden reversal, the Pac-12 Conference has decided to cancel all sports competitions through the end of the calendar year. The football season, which was scheduled to begin on September 26th, has been moved to the spring. The cancellation is due to the Covid-19 national pandemic that all of America is currently dealing with.

The decision follows on the heels of a similar decision by the Big Ten Conference to cancel all fall sports, including football. Two other conferences at the FBS level, the Mid-American Conference, and the Mountain West Conference, have also canceled fall football. At the FCS level, the Big Sky Conference has also canceled college football this fall.

With the decision by the Pac-12 to cancel fall football, this means all college football in the western part of the United States has been canceled at the Division 1, Division 2, and Division 3 levels of NCAA college football. Football fans in the west will be left with NFL football, assuming that goes through as planned.

The NFL is spending $75 million on testing of all NFL personnel and they have introduced point-of-care testing. Point of care is the technical term for testing that can be done without sending the sample to a lab. The tests are 97% accurate and can deliver results in 45 minutes. There is a good chance that fans will be able to see NFL football.

UCLA Director of Athletics, Martin Jarmond delivered the grim news in the following statement: "Throughout the pandemic, every decision UCLA makes – both at the campus level and at the conference level – is guided by our priority of safety for the entire Bruin community, and we follow the recommendations of public health officials and medical experts.

"Now, despite the tremendous efforts of so many, medical experts have advised us that the risk to compete this fall is too significant. UCLA Athletics is in complete support of today's decision by the Pac-12 CEO group to postpone all sport competitions through the end of the calendar year; no game is worth jeopardizing the health of even one person.

"I am disappointed for all those impacted, especially our student-athletes, but if the past few months have shown us anything, it is just how resilient our young people are. As a conference, we will continue to explore how best to move forward. In the meantime, our focus will be on the continued support of our student-athletes' academic success, physical and mental health and overall well-being."

A week ago, the Pac-12 was committed to playing a ten-game schedule beginning on September 26th. The question is, what happened in the last week to change the minds of the Pac-12 leadership? The Covid-19 virus was not going away anytime soon. For both the Big Ten and the Pac-12, something the medical experts communicated to the leadership of each conference convinced the leadership to cancel fall sports.

A health complication seen in some people who have contracted coronavirus reportedly played a key role in the pending suspension of the Big Ten football season. According to ESPN, Myocarditis, a condition defined as inflammation of the heart muscles, was observed in at least five Big Ten student-athletes who tested positive for COVID-19 and has been found in student- athletes in other conferences.

The bottom line may be that the pandemic is too widespread to risk the health of student-athletes and there is just too much unknown about this new virus. Covid-19 is a novel virus because it is new to humans. The World Health Organization recently stated that: "When we say that the vast majority of people have a mild illness and recover, that is true. But what we cannot say, at the moment, is what are the potential long-term impacts of having had that infection."

The other concern is the recent demands of a group of Pac-12 players. They are demanding additional Covid-19 protections, they want to preserve all sports by eliminating excessive expenditures, they want an end to racial injustice in college sports and they want economic freedom and equity. A demand for a player's union was dropped but has not gone away. The elimination of excessive expenditures would come from the salaries of the Pac-12 Commissioner, coaches, and athletic directors.

With the cancellation of all fall sports, those demands will go away for now, but will need to be addressed at a later date. The bigger question is, when will the virus be contained or eliminated? At this point, the virus is out-of-control in the United States. The lack of a national strategy and the lack of a national commitment has left the country reeling.

South Korea, with a population of 51 million, is about the size of the state of Indiana. They have had a total of 14,714 Covid-19 cases and 305 coronavirus deaths. The U.S. has had 5.3 million Covid-19 cases and over 165,000 deaths. Currently, the U.S. is averaging over 50,000 new Covid-19 cases per day and a coronavirus death every 80 seconds. With these numbers, it is easy to see why schools are nervous about student-athletes playing sports, especially with the liability issues.

As it is, professional athletes are being forced to stay in a bubble to play sports. The NBA is in a bubble in Orlando. The National Hockey League went to Canada to create a bubble. The NFL is testing daily. Colleges simply cannot afford to test daily and keep their athletes separate from the rest of the student population. Without a national strategy, there may not be any hope of college athletics until the virus has been contained and eliminated.


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