While Pac-12 Gears Up for June 15 Return, Shaw Calls Out Detractors

Dan Raley

Slowly, but surely, Pac-12 football is inching back to something that resembles a fall schedule in the face of the global pandemic. 

On Tuesday, presidents of these universities agreed to lift a moratorium enabling the schools to reopen their facilities to all athletes as soon as next month.

Commissioner Larry Scott, as he did the week before, reiterated again on Tuesday that a majority of his Pac-12 football programs will welcome their players back to campus by Tuesday, June 15.

The University of Washington as of Thursday had not confirmed its plans, but it is expected to follow this timeline as well. There is great hope among school administrators, coaches and players that a football season will be held this fall.

If all goes as scheduled, the Huskies will open with a home game on Sept. 5 against Michigan. 

"I'm dying to get back up there," UW junior offensive tackle Jaxson Kirkland said last week from his home in Vancouver, Washington. "I'm tired of being at home. It's killing me not being up there with my friends." 

Meantime, coaches at California schools such as David Shaw at Stanford are fighting what they say are program-damaging misperceptions about their schools and corresponding coronavirus restrictions. 

In a Sports Illustrated story written by Ross Dellenger, Shaw bristled at depictions of Stanford football and other California programs supposedly being under statewide restrictions so severe that they could lose players through mass transfers. These slights weren't doing the Cardinal any favors in recruiting either. 

"It was hard turning on the TV and watching some sports experts -- I'm using air quotes -- really say that 'We don't know if they're going to play football over there and maybe all those players should transfer and hopefully this one-time transfer rule goes through!' " Shaw said. "We took a lot of shots, and some very prominent people on some very big networks took some shots, but I'm used to it."

Shaw, who got his coaching start as an assistant at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, in 1995, has been with the Cardinal since 2007 and the head coach for the past nine years. 

Schools such as Washington and Stanford are working hard to put coronavirus testing in place so they can keep their football players and other athletes safe from infection while campus areas are being utilized. 

To be fair, the states of California and Washington have shown due diligence in instituting and enforcing social-distancing guidelines, and been slower to reopen statewide activities than much of the rest of the country.  

Last week, the NCAA lifted its moratorium on campus athletic activities, making it possible for schools to reopen for players as early as June 1. 

The SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 will remove their own league-wide restrictions that run through May 31. Other conferences are leaving decisions such as these up to individual schools. For example, Oklahoma doesn't plan to have athletes on campus any sooner than July 1.

Shaw said others need to be patient with Stanford and the rest of the Pac-12, that there's no room for gamesmanship suggesting the West Coast doesn't care as much as others about its college football. 

"The fact that we didn’t operate the same way as a state that is one-third the size of California, doesn’t mean that we don’t take this thing very seriously," he said. 

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