Pac-12 CEO's to meet on Thursday; Huge decisions to be made

Ryan Kostecka

The time has come for the Pac-12's CEO group — comprised of president's and chancellors of the 12 schools — to finally make a decision regarding the upcoming college football season.

While the four other Power 5 conferences have been playing or preparing for the upcoming season, the leaders of the Pac-12 who make all the decisions have been sitting atop their thrones, twiddling their thumbs. 

Although the coaches and players want to play, and the state and local governments have gone about granting their wishes, the Pac-12 CEO's have continued to shuffle their feet with no answers in sight.

All of that is set to change on Thursday when the CEO's are getting together again as a follow-up to last Friday's meeting. It is on Thursday where they're expected to vote on whether or not to play college football this fall (and when the start date would be), and if they'll lift the statute banning Pac-12 sports as a whole from playing before Jan. 1 — we are looking at you, college basketball.

“I’m not expecting a vote today. I’m not going to push for one today,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told Dan Patrick last Friday, hours before the league’s presidents and chancellors were scheduled to meet on a conference call. “This has been a rapidly developing series of events. ... We need to give the folks that lead our campuses a chance to digest all this, take into account everything going on on their campuses.”

What sparked this massive turnaround was the Big Ten's decision to play college football. And because the programs within that conference continued to train in some sort of capacity, they have a restart set for Oct. 17 — allowing them to play eight conference games before holding a conference championship on Dec. 19.

Despite the new information over the past week, the outcome of the meeting was disheartening considering how much coaches and players were pushing to play—and how local governments were supporting that idea by granting exemptions in regards to COVID-19 restrictions.

“The Pac-12 CEO Group had an informative and productive meeting earlier today. We plan to reconvene this coming Thursday, Sept. 24 to make a decision regarding possible return to play prior to Jan. 1,” said a statement from the league office following the conclusion of the meeting last week. “The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports will continue to be our number one priority in all of our decision-making.”

A lot has changed since the Pac-12 announced on Aug. 11 that all sports would be canceled/postponed until New Years Day.

It began a few weeks ago when the conference announced a partnership with Quidel, a diagnostic company with rapid COVID-19 testing that can produce results in 15 minutes. Each program will be supplied with the machines necessary for these tests by the end of the month.

Despite Scott's words on Friday morning, many coaches, players and media members were expecting the Pac-12 CEOs to make a decision sooner rather than later. Reason being, the more time passes, the more it makes sense to not play.

The Big Ten is starting in late October so it can be considered for the College Football Playoff. If the Pac-12 is to begin on Nov. 7, it means that the conference champion will only have seven games to its name — and that's extremely difficult to make a case for the CFP.

“If we’re going to move forward, it’s going to depend on how quickly we can get back to practice," Scott said. "Six weeks would be from Monday (to be ready for a Halloween time start), but we’re only getting these rapid tests next week, so I think that would be the most ambitious, maybe a week or two too quick for us. But somewhere in that zip code is where we would be playing if we’re playing."

Only time will tell where the Pac-12 goes from here — but it may be smart for coaches and players to begin preparing for a season as if they'll play. Because by the time the conference chancellor's and president's finally come to a decision, it may be too late to play for anything of worth.

“We’ve overcome the major obstacles that we had and the criteria that our medical advisers set with the public health authority approvals,” Scott said. “But our presidents and chancellors have to weigh the issues on their campuses. They’ll be the ultimate decision-makers, but in terms of the metrics and the issues we talked about in mid-August — the reasons why we weren’t going forward — we’ve made tremendous progress and have overcome those things."

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Twitter — @UtahUtes_SI and Ryan Kostecka at @Ryan_Kostecka