ASU Football: Five Takeaways from Pac-12 Schedule and Protocols Reveal
After nearly an entire offseason of drifting in uncertain waters, the Pac-12's course to a season is now clearer.
There is a schedule and a starting date for training camp, along with safety and flexibility protocols for the 2020 season.
Teams will play a 10-game conference-only schedule that begins on Saturday, Oct. 26. Arizona State will open the season against the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott joined ASU vice president of athletics Ray Anderson, Stanford head coach David Shaw and Oregon State senior associate director of athletics Dr. Doug Aukerman on a Zoom press conference to discuss the Pac-12 plan.
Here are takeaways from an ASU perspective.
Early Rivalry Week is for Flexibility
It will likely be strange for Sun Devil fans to see the Wildcats in Week 1. This is a game that usually caps off the season, the grand finale.
But, "hAte Week," as it's known in Tempe, will be in September this year because Arizona is a coronavirus hot spot. The state had the fifth-most cases per 100,000 people in the US over the past week, according to the New York Times. So, why have them play so early?
"We realize that those are real hot spots, and the requisite authorities and approvals necessary are not there yet," Scott said. "By putting them the first week, in the event that these two teams in each of those two markets (USC versus UCLA is also Week 1) winds up not being possible, it becomes very easy to reschedule.
"It's possible that not all of our schools can start on Sept. 26."
Anderson said that the schedule allows the conference to be "nimble and adaptive."
By bunching the two Arizona schools together early on, and giving them the same bye week (Week 4), then the conference has a safety net. There is also an open week in December between the final game and the conference championship for postponement needs.
If football cannot happen in Arizona in September for various reasons, then it only affects the Arizona teams who can make up that game later.
Training Camp Date and 20-Hour Rule
ASU and all Pac-12 football teams can begin training camp on Aug. 17. They don't have to start then, but that is the earliest date they can.
Before then, the 20-Hour Rule is in place starting Monday, although it remains a "dynamic process," according to Scott.
The rule is that teams can work for 20 hours per week; however, they are not allowed to scrimmage or conduct full-contact drills. This time is dedicated to strength and conditioning, team meetings and walk-throughs. Scott believes that each program will be ready for that.
How The Pac-12 Championship Could be in Tempe this Year
If all goes very well for ASU, there is a chance it could host the Pac-12 Championship game.
The event that is scheduled for either December 18 or 19 will be played at the stadium of the home team or the higher seed. Originally, the game was supposed to be played in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium.
"We've determined that in order to have the maximum flexibility, nimbleness and in light of concerns expected for fan attendance were going to play a home-hosted model," Scott said.
The game will be in Las Vegas next year.
Speaking of Fans
A decision has not been made regarding the allowance of fans to attend games. Scott said that this is not the conference's decision to make.
"We really feel it's appropriate for us to defer to public health authorities," Scott said.
There is Still No Guarantee that a Season Happens
When asked about whether there would be a season or not, Scott simply responded, "I don't know."
"I think we are all trying to take a step at a time," Scott said. "We are cautiously optimistic.
"There are elements outside our control that are going to have a lot of influence on that question. What's happening in our communities? What's happening on our campuses? A lot of that has to do with mask-wearing, social distancing, other things. What happens when thousands of students come back to our campuses?"
Dr. Aukerman continued that sentiment.
"We are continually reliant on the general community to wear masks and make good choices because that impacts the community prevalence of the disease," he said.
The Pac-12 protocols include "testing appropriately" and using the best tests available (using the resources on campuses and not from the general community). The written plan includes how to clean the locker rooms, manage personnel flow in and out of buildings and when and where to wear face coverings.
Still, despite the uncertainties present, Anderson showed optimism regarding how the Pac-12 has planned for the potential of a 2020 season.
"You have different things happening in different places," Anderson said. "You have different interests, different agendas at some points. But under this circumstance, this conference came together in an impressive fashion."