The Pac-12 university presidents voted on Thursday to play a seven-game fall football season that will begin Nov. 6-7, the conference announced.
The Pac-12 championship is scheduled for Dec. 18, which would enable the conference champion to be available for selection to the College Football Playoff. Those four teams will be announced Dec. 20.
"Our schools are going to be in position to be part of that conversation," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said, adding that there is no minimum number of games needed to be considered for the College Football Playoff.
No spectators will be allowed to attend any Pac-12 on-campus sporting events.
All of the Power Five conferences will be playing fall football, but the Pac-12 will be the last of the five to begin its fall season and the only one of the five that will be playing fewer than nine games.
The schedule will be announced in the coming days, but Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said each team would face the other five teams in its own division as well as one other team for the other division. Then the division champions would play each other in the Dec. 18 conference title game after six games, and on the same weekend the other Pac-12 teams would play another team from the other division.
So Cal would play Pac-12 North opponents Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State and Stanford and one team from the Pac-12 South in its first six games, then face another team from the Pac-12 South on Dec. 18 or 19, whether it be in a conference title game or not.
Cal has an agreement with the Pac-12 to play USC and UCLA every year, but whether that will be accommodated this season is unclear. (For more on the Bears' schedule possibilities, click here.)
Requirements for bowl eligibility apparently will be waived
When a team can begin to practice will still be determined by local health orgnizations.
Cal has been given clearance to expand its cohort groups from 12 players to 25 players starting Friday, and Cal head coach Justin Wilcox anticipates that the Bears' regular training camp will begin Oct. 9, although that has not been confirmed.
Wilcox also noted that players who compete during this seven-game fall season would not use up a year of eligibility.
The conference also announced the men's and women's basketball seasons will begin Nov. 25. Those schedules also will be announced in the coming days. Baasketball teams can begin practice Oct. 14, assuming local health restrictions are satisfied.
Other winter sports will also proceed, with Scott saying this was not just a football decision.
**Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton answered a question about the pros and cons of the football decision during Thursday night's interview:
Here are the introductory paragraphs of the Pac-12 announcement:
The Pac-12 CEO Group announced today that based upon updated Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee recommendations that take into account material changes to testing capabilities, the prevalence of COVID-19 and cardiac issues, along with updated state and local health official guidance, the Conference will resume its football, basketball and winter sport seasons. The football season may now commence for those teams that have the necessary state and local health approvals on November 6, men’s and women’s basketball on November 25 consistent with the NCAA’s official start date for these sports, and other winter sports consistent with the NCAA season dates for those sports. The decision follows a meeting of the CEO Group last week where the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee presented its updated health and safety recommendations (available here), along with the CEO Group having reviewed details on the rollout of the previously announced Quidel daily rapid-results testing program.
For universities utilizing daily antigen testing, at least one weekly PCR test will also be administered for each student-athlete, in addition to all positive tests to be confirmed with a PCR test. All testing recommendations will be reviewed and updated as needed on an ongoing basis.
Another excerpt of the announcement defines practice guidelines and dates:
In the sport of football, Pac-12 universities with the necessary public health approvals may commence practice immediately with a seven game Conference-only season to begin on November 6, and the Pac-12 Championship Game on December 18, enabling Pac-12 teams to be considered for selection by the CFP. The football schedule will be released in the coming days.
In the sport of men’s and women’s basketball, the season will begin on the NCAA official start date of November 25. Further details regarding basketball schedules will be released in the near future.
Here is a statement from Cal Chancellor Carol Christ:
This decision to have our student-athletes return to competition and practice was reached with extreme care and deliberation. The health and well-being of our student-athletes is our primary concern. Before we were willing to move to this stage, a number of health-related issues needed to be resolved, specifically:
Provision of daily COVID-19 testing to student-athletes,
Lower rates of infection in the community and positively trending pandemic conditions generally, and
Further study on the specific health risks to student-athletes who contract COVID-19, namely myocarditis.
I am confident that these conditions and questions have been adequately addressed. In particular, having our student-athletes tested on a daily basis will help limit community spread of COVID-19.
As a campus, we have carefully monitored local pandemic conditions and have consulted regularly with local public health authorities as we have worked toward a phased re-start of activities that cannot be done remotely. We began with ramping up our on-campus research efforts, then allowed a limited number of students to occupy our residence halls, and now will carefully add in-person competition and practice for our student-athletes. We hope to announce the limited expansion of other on-campus, in-person activities soon. As with the decisions we have made to date, we will proceed deliberately and carefully, as conditions permit and in full compliance with public health orders and guidelines.
As we proceed with practice and competition, we will monitor the health of our student-athletes and our community closely and will not hesitate to reverse our decision.
Here is a statement from Cal football coach Justin Wilcox:
We are excited that the Pac-12 CEO Group has voted to resume our football season based upon the updated recommendations of the league's medical advisory committee. We have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time to be prepared, and we will be nimble and flexible in that preparation. There has been a lot of work done by so many people to get us to this point, and we realize that we must continue to follow all protocols and guidelines that have been established in order to play football this year.
Here is a statement from Cal quarterback Chase Garbers:
My teammates and I are ecstatic that the Pac-12 vote today came out positive, and we can't wait to get back on the field for games starting in November. We have stayed prepared for this exact moment, and we are going to be fully prepared to accomplish our goals this season. The member Pac-12 schools have done a great job coordinating logistics and safety for us players,and Cal has done a tremendous job in making sure we are safe and will be prepared. There is work to be done, and we can't wait to get after it as a team. My teammates and I are excited to get this 2020 season kicked off. Go Bears!
Here is a statement from Cal safety Elijah Hicks:
I'm glad the Pac-12 has found a safe way for us to play. I have been working hard all throughout the pandemic. There are so many negative things happening in our country right now and to be able to play football again makes me happy and turnt up!
Here is a statement from Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton:
Today's announcement by the Pac-12 provides an optimistic next step in order to resume competition. Our goal since the onset of the pandemic has been to provide a safe way for our teams to return fully to the sports they love. That has not changed and remains our primary objective. Working alongside Chancellor Carol Christ, we have remained thoughtful and deliberative in our approach every step of the way. We have no higher priority than the health and well-being of everyone associated with our athletic programs – student-athletes, coaches, staff and the Cal community.
Our return-to-campus protocols will continue to follow guidelines in line with the Berkeley Public Health order, and within our current structure, we believe we have a high level of control in place. With nearly 250 student-athletes training on campus, we are happy to report that we have not seen any cases traced back to contact within our facilities. Over the past month, we have seen decreasing infection rates in the Berkeley area and have developed a better understanding of health risks and treatment. With the addition of rapid daily antigen testing, which is expected to be operational very soon, we are confident that we can significantly limit the spread of infection during athletic activity.
University Health Services continues to work in concert with local public health authorities to discuss a roadmap that will allow a safe return to full athletic activities. Conversations have been productive, and we are grateful for their leadership and partnership. Our plan for resumption of athletic activities has been approved by Berkeley Public Health and is in full alignment with Pac-12, state and NCAA guidelines. We will be increasing our cohort size, adding indoor workouts (up to 10% capacity), and adding contact activities once daily testing is available. We are ready to move forward on a path to competition and will be prepared to adjust whenever it becomes necessary."
Cal men's basketball coach Mark Fox also released a statement via twitter:
Here is a statement from women's basketball coach Charmin Smith:
I think this is a great first step. It's important that our conference continues to put the health and safety of our student-athletes and coaches first. Our ability to test daily is huge, and I know that our players are looking forward to getting back into the gym in a safe way. I also want to acknowledge the continued efforts from and Chancellor Christ, which have paved the way for us to return to play.
The Pac-12, which is reversing its August 11 decision to cancel football in the fall, becomes the last Power Five conference to approve a fall football season. The Southeastern Conference, Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference all are starting play this weekend, while the Big Ten is scheduled to start on Oct. 24.
The American Athletic Conference, Sun Belt and Conference-USA are also playing football this fall, and the Mountain West Conference voted Friday to begin a fall season on Oct. 24. The only other FBS conference is the Mid-American Conference, which canceled fall football but is considering a proposal to play football this fall.
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