Surprising Odds Set on Whether the Pac-12 Will Play Spring Football

Will Justin Wilcox's Cal team get to face Mario Cristobal's Oregon squad in the spring?Photo by Troy Wayrynen - USA TODAY Sports

Jake Curtis

You thought the Pac-12 is likely to play spring football? Think again.

Frankly, I am shocked at how unlikely Pac-12 spring football is, according to at least one oddsmaker. 

When I heard that the Pac-12 was canceling all sports competition until at least Jan. 1, while adding that it hoped to play football in the spring, I figured there was a pretty good chance we'd see spring football for Cal and other Pac-12 teams.

Cal Sports Report even wrote an article outlining the obstacles the conference would need to overcome and what a spring football season would look like. It was written with the idea that spring football seemed possible.

The X-factor, of course, is COVID-19, and the assumption that it will be under control by the spring, allowing football games to take place safely at that time.

Then I was sent the odds placed on the possibility of the Pac-12 playing spring football by and was taken aback.

That oddsmaker put the odds of the Pac-12 playing in the spring at +425 and the odds of the Pac-12 not playing football in the spring at -800. 

In this case "spring ball" was considered any game being played between March 21, 2021, and June 30, 2021, which seems like a reasonable span.

OK, let's explain what that means.

Odds of +425 on "Yes, the Pac-12 will play football in the spring" means a bet of $100 would earn you $425 if spring ball is played.  That works out to 17-to-4 odds of spring ball taking place in the Pac-12 and would be a handsome payday if it happens.

The odds of -800 on "No, there will be no spring ball in the Pac-12" means you would have to bet $800 to earn a measly $100 if there is no spring ball in the Pac-12.  That works out to 1-to-8 odds.

If you know anything about horse-racing wagers, 1-to-8 odds on a horse mean that horse is a heavy, heavy favorite. If any other horse would win the race it would be a huge upset.

So this oddsmaker is suggesting that it is highly unlikely that football will be played in the spring in the Pac-12.

We are often surprised by oddsmakers' odds, but I have seen enough of these to know they are pretty accurate. There is a reason these oddsmakers make a lot of money. gave the Big Ten a slightly better chance of playing spring ball, but still it would be an upset if that conference played games in the spring.

The odds were +375 that the Big Ten would play spring ball and -650 that it would not.   That means the odds are nearly 5-to-1 that the Big Ten will play football in the spring and 2-to-13 that it won't.  That's still long odds that the Big Ten will play football in the spring.

This was not optimistic information.

It suggests Pac-12 and Big Ten players who want to play football sometime soon may be more inclined to transfer to a team in a conference that is likely to play in the the fall. The SEC, ACC and Big 12 are still planning to play football games in the fall, but until there is a kickoff, those plans remain in joepardy. 

So why are the odds stacked against having spring football? Perhaps it is the belief that the coronavirus threat will not be adequately reduced any time soon.  Perhaps it is the notion that college adminstrators will be reluctant to play a spring football season so close to the start of the 2021 fall football season. Perhaps there are just too many logistical issues to iron out.

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Comments (3)
No. 1-3

I think things are so bad right now, and it will take time in the spring to get a national approach together, as well as a vaccine rollout, that I’m VERY dubious that spring football will happen. Optimistic about fall 2021 though. By then, we’ll still have most of the current players, some great new recruits, and that much more time to establish the Musgrave offense. Should be in a great position.


I don't know about the oddsmakers, but it just seems like the "easy" decision will be to cancel in the spring. It's risk management. I just don't see much changing between now and then. When schools start again, despite some recent progress, it's going to spread again. We are basically relying on an untested, unknown vaccine (notice there hasn't been news lately to prop up the stock market after the Moderna fiasco?) that will take months to safely deliver to the 330M people. Thus, even though I don't think they know much, I agree with the oddsmakers. They are just reading the same tea leaves.


I believe the betting odds are meaningless. Why? Because the odds are created by the bettors, most of whom are woefully under informed. I'll wait to see what happens with hope in my heart. ;-)