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College football will look a bit different in 2020

The Husky football season would be four weeks in during a normal year, but nothing about 2020 has been normal. Sadly, Husky Stadium will remain empty for the foreseeable future as the Pac-12 conference decided in July to cancel all fall sports seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Seen as very premature, since it was made almost a month and a half before the season was scheduled to kickoff, this decision created heavy criticism toward conference officials. Despite being given as much time as they would have needed to create a plan to play football in the fall, the conference was unable to do so in the months spanning from March through July. 

Unless something drastically changes Husky fans will have to sit through the 2020 college football season without their Dawgs playing one snap in spite of the fact that other conferences are giving their schools the okay to play.

Six of the nine conferences in NCAA Division 1-A football — which is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics — are either currently beginning their season or are a few weeks into playing at this point. This includes three “power five” conferences where the SEC, ACC and Big 12 have started their seasons. 

Originally the first power five conference to cancel their entire season with the Pac-12 following shortly, after several weeks of deliberation the Big 10 has finally announced their intention to begin the football season on October 24 and play through December 19.

This development now puts tremendous pressure on the Pac-12 to get a season going, but there are still obstacles that stand in their way. 

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott mentioned two things that need to happen in order for there to be a football season played. The first was quick and adequate testing to stop asymptomatic players from taking the field. This hurdle was easily cleared after the Pac-12 partnered with Quidel Corporation, whose testing machines will be delivered to each of the Pac-12 athletic departments in September and will be able to give out  test results in 15 minutes. 

“This is a major step toward the safe resumption of Pac-12 sport competitions,” said Scott in the Pac-12 announcement of the partnership, “The availability of a reliable test that can be administered daily, with almost immediate results, addresses one of the key concerns that was expressed by our medical advisory committee, as well as by student-athletes, coaches and others.”

The next step will be dependent on lifting local restrictions. There are currently practice restrictions in California and Oregon — which are home to six of the twelve schools that make up the conference. Once these restrictions are lifted, we can expect to see a start date solidified for the football season. 

“We still have six universities — our four California schools, our two Oregon schools — that don’t have the requisite approvals from public health authorities to engage in contact practice at the moment,” Scott said, “Even if we were ready to start tomorrow, we couldn’t start what we know as training camp.”

Several USC players constructed a letter to the governor of California asking him to lift the restrictions on practice so that they can play. There has been no response at this point. 

However, the commissioner is confident that they will be able to start the season in January,  which is earlier than the original Spring season idea. 

“I’m now highly confident we’re going to be able to start in January, at the latest,” Scott told ESPN, “Whether we could start late-November, early-December, we’ll have to figure out. It’s got something to do with our public health authorities in California and Oregon saying it’s okay and blessing it.”

As I have mentioned before, the Pac-12 already faces significant problems competitively, financially and in many other areas with the other college conferences. Not playing a football season will most likely have long-lasting effects on the conference that will put them into an even deeper hole.

After watching the first few weeks of schools playing with no significant outbreaks of COVID as well as the frequent testing the Pac-12 now has access to, there is no reason for the schools not to play. Every player should be given the opportunity to play as well as to opt out of the season and keep their scholarship if they so choose. 

My gut feeling is that the season will begin in January, but let’s all cross our fingers that it will be sooner.