OPINION: Look for UW to Play Fall Football Games; Who Knows How Many

Dan Raley

OK, now what?

With the Big Ten going to a conference-only football schedule, setting things in motion across the NCAA landscape, you can probably expect the other Power Five leagues to follow suit and institute this measure.

The Pac-12 could decide to move in this direction as early as today. 

Then, quite literally, it becomes a free-for-all to see who can get the most, or any, football games played this fall.

Safety concerns for the players during a very real COVID-19 pandemic will be the No. 1 determinant of who plays and when.

Money could weigh into this as well. Some athletic department budgets, already gutted, might not be able to support games without fans. 

Two-thirds of the Pac-12 schools may be all that pursue fall football games. 

Members could go off on their own without thinking twice about it.

USC and Washington did it before. 

Almost no one is still around to tell us about it, but this is what happened in the then- Pacific Coast Conference 77 years ago during the height of World War II.

In 1943, the California schools pulled away from their Northwest counterparts, telling them they wouldn't play games out of state because transportation options were limited. And it wasn't safe.

Washington next went off on its own after Washington State and the other Northwest schools shut down their football operations. The school cobbled together a makeshift schedule of whoever it could find.

It was no surprise then that the Trojans and Huskies wound up playing in the only Rose Bowl featuring two teams from the same conference. 

Could that happen again?

So here we are in 2020, and it's highly likely Washington and USC will play abbreviated football schedules in some manner, even if no one else does in the conference.

Unlike the rest of the American landscape, these schools have taken control of their athletes, quarantined them and tested them repeatedly with superior medical facilities backing their efforts.

Through this week, the UW had just three active coronavirus cases out of 157 athletes tested. 

The Pac-12 teams likely will attempt to play all-conferences schedules across the board, but many schools, such as those in Arizona, might not be able to start or keep up because of the pandemic.

Look for all schools to eventually scale back from original 10- or 11-game season proposals.

Figure the UW and USC each will get in six to eight games.

Whether that's reality or not will depend totally on the pandemic spikes and response, and nothing else. 

A delayed season start is an option.

So is moving everything to the spring.

Pac-12 leaders could meet today or over the weekend and have an answer.

Elsewhere, here's what's happening across this college football remake set in motion.

In the SEC, Paul Finebaum, radio-talk-show host and long considered the media voice of the conference, says he's lost hope that a season will be played this fall.

At Notre Dame, athletic director Jack Swarbrick has serious doubts that college football will begin a fall season on time. He'll have to scramble for opponents should each Power Five conference choose league-only games.

The Sporting News thinks conference-only schedules for college football are a good thing

Our Sports Illustrated network in the SEC is reporting that all 14 conference athletic directors have been asked to be at the league offices in Birmingham, Alabama, on Monday, presumably to settle on a league-only schedule.

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Comments (4)
No. 1-2

Appreciate the optimism, and the history-lesson, Mr. Raley. In the event there comes an announcement soon that the 2020 college football season will not be played, I get to finally cancel my cable. I don't watch the NFL and, other than the remaining sports already cancelled, and the occasional Rockford Files rerun, there is not much of anything out there for me.

Patrick T
Patrick T

Can't see it happening. I understand that the athletic departments are hungry for the income, but the risk is too high. Just look how the infection rate exploded in FL, TX and AZ when those states re-opened bars and restaurants. If the safety of students and employees really is the determining factor, they'll wait til the vaccines are available.