Coronavirus upset Pac-12 apple cart



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College Football July 2020 PAC-12 Image: spokesman.com

The Pac-12 Conference has followed suit – just like the Power Five conference counterpart the Big Ten – it has moved “several” of its Fall sports to conference-only play due to coronavirus which is still causing disaster the world over, with the United States caught severely in the Octopus-like grip of COVID-19.

The Pac-12 Conference is a collegiate athletic conference that operates in the Western United States, participating in 24 sports at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I level. Its football teams compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the higher of two tiers of NCAA Division I football competition.

The Big Ten Conference is the oldest Division I collegiate athletic conference in the United States. It is based in Rosemont, Illinois. For decades, the conference consisted of 10 universities, while the present conference has 14 member institutions.

In college football, the term Power Five conferences refers to five athletic conferences whose members are part of the Football Bowl Subdivision of NCAA Division I, the highest level of collegiate football in the United States.

In a move that further shows the heightening pressure US college sports is facing, the Pac-12 said some of its key Fall sports, including football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball, will be played solely within the conference and the start of mandatory athletic activities will be delayed. The conference intends to still play football and all other Fall sports “provided it can meet the health and safety needs of its student-athletes and obtain appropriate permissions from State and local health authorities”.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports continues to be our number one priority,” said Larry Scott, Pac-12 Commissioner.

Scott added, “Our decisions have and will be guided by science and data, and based upon the trends and indicators over the past days, it has become clear that we need to provide ourselves with maximum flexibility to schedule, and to delay any movement to the next phase of return-to-play activities.”

Barely had two hours passed when Pac-12 announced about Fall sports, the conference informed that Scott himself tested positive for COVID-19. Fifty-five-year-old Scott has experienced mild flu-like symptoms, is self-quarantining, and is working remotely. The California resident stays in one of the US States that has seen a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

Though certain components of US college sports, particularly football and men’s basketball, is very popular among fans – equal to or greater than many pro leagues, this segment of the industry typically does not boast the same financial muscle and operational resources as a pro league. The schools’ mission as educational institutions also differs from the purely commercial enterprises of their professional counterparts.

Consequently, the college conferences and individual schools do not enjoy the financial wherewithal to set up fully quarantined environments that several pro entities such as the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Soccer (MLS) have done to resume play.

“Competitive sports are an integral part of the educational experience for our student-athletes, and we will do everything that we can to support them in achieving their dreams while at the same time ensuring that their health and safety is at the forefront,” said Michael Schill, President of Pac-12 member school the University of Oregon.

Revised Pac-12 schedules will be announced no later than July 31.

Several other conferences are likely to be on the same page with the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, and, in turn, have seismic impacts on determining national champions in Fall sports.

The American collegiate athletic conference Ivy League has already gone a step ahead, moving to eliminate its Fall sports entirely.

Like the Big Ten, the shift to conference-only play will also result in the loss of large financial paydays to schools from smaller conference that were set to be compensated for playing Pac-12 schools in football. The move additionally eliminates several prominent football games with schools in other Power Five conferences, including a much-anticipated game previously scheduled for September 5 between the University of Southern California and the University of Alabama.

Pac-12 student athletes who choose not to participate this coming academic year will still have their scholarships honored and will remain in good standing with their teams.

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