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Pac-12 votes to postpone college football season, fall sports

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott speaks during the Pac-12 NCAA college basketball media day Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Pac-12 university presidents voted Tuesday to postpone the college football season and all fall sports until at least the spring if the coronavirus threat improves.

Because the Pac-12’s postponement runs through Jan. 1, 2021, men’s basketball will also be impacted.

The league said it will ask the NCAA to grant athletes who opt out of 2020-21 to earn an extra year of eligibility and will keep all of them under scholarship.

“The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports has been our number one priority since the start of this current crisis,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “Our student-athletes, fans, staff and all those who love college sports would like to have seen the season played this calendar year as originally planned, and we know how disappointing this is.”

It’s a move that follows a similar decision by the Big Ten officially announced an hour prior.

The Pac-12′s football season was previously scheduled to start Sept. 26.

Scott and a panel of Pac-12 representatives, including Arizona State vice president for university athletics Ray Anderson, will speak on the decision via a media conference call at 1:30 p.m.

The decision comes after presidents and school athletic directors spoke Monday about advice from Pac-12 doctors who expressed concern over coronavirus’ impact on the health of even college-aged athletes, reported Thamel and The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman.

Specifically, the doctors raised awareness about the potential for the virus to cause myocarditis.

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart and it has been found in some COVID-19 patients. There is concern it could be a long-term complication of contracting the virus even in young, healthy people, a group that has usually avoided severe cardiovascular symptoms.

Before announcing the hope for a spring football season and postponed play in the fall, the Big Ten put its preseason on hold last weekend, telling schools they could not conduct contact practices right around the time those should be starting, with games less than a month away.

Massachusetts became the second Northeast independent program in the highest tier of NCAA football to cancel the fall season, joining Connecticut. UMass is the 27th Bowl Subdivision program to put off fall sports in hopes of a spring season.

Evidence of that changed the tune of the Pac-12, which previously canceled non-conference football games and reshuffled the 2020 season to include a 10-game schedule of only conference opponents.

Other Power Five conferences have indicated they might cancel the football season outright.

A day after the Mid-American Conference became the first of the major college football leagues to cancel the fall season, Power Five conference commissioners met Sunday. They discussed mounting concerns about whether a season can be safely conducted with the pandemic still not under control in the United States.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said no decisions on the season have been made, but conceded the outlook has not improved.

Like the Pac-12 leaders, Bowlsby cited “growing evidence and the growing pool of data around myocarditis” as a reason to be concerned.

Also Sunday night, the Big Ten’s university presidents and chancellors held a previously unscheduled meeting, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was not announced by the conference.

Another person with direct knowledge of the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no votes were taken or decisions made about the college football season.

In response, college football players from across the country united Sunday in an attempt to save their season and ensure they will no longer be left out of the sport’s biggest decisions.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma State All-America running back Chuba Hubbard, Alabama running back Najee Harris and numerous other players from Florida State to Oregon posted a graphic on social media with #WeWantToPlay and #WeAreUnited.

The #WeAreUnited hashtag was used a week ago by a group of Pac-12 players in announcing a movement they say has the support of hundreds of peers within their conference. They have threatened mass opt-outs by players if concerns about COVID-19 protocols, racial injustice in college sports and economic rights for athletes are not addressed.

All of this capped a weekend during which the leaders who run college sports seemed to be moving toward shutting it all down because of the pandemic.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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