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Wilner: Pac-12 football may kick off in 2020 despite previous postponement

(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Arizona State Sun Devils and Arizona Wildcats may get back in action prior to the end of 2020 as the Pac-12 reportedly discusses reversing course on a postponement of football until 2021.

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News reported Thursday Pac-12 officials are targeting an Oct. 31 start date to the football season.

Pac-12 university presidents voted in early August to postpone the college football season and all fall sports until 2021 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, joining the Big Ten in a similar decision.

The Big Ten, however, changed course on Wednesday and announced a plan to start the college football season on Oct. 24.

That made the Pac-12 be the only Power Five conference to be left on the sidelines this fall.

Wilner told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Thursday the Pac-12’s urgency is in response to players, coaches, athletic directors, TV partners and fans wanting college football to return in 2020.

“I think they feel like we just need to get moving, everybody else is moving, and once it’s safe, we need to get moving,” Wilner said.

Wilner doesn’t think the conference is concerned about the safety of playing during the coronavirus pandemic at this point since daily tests should be available by the end of the month.

He added the Pac-12 medical team believes six weeks is adequate time to prepare for the season with two weeks of ramp-up and four weeks of serious contact work.

Teams need daily tests to be available for full-contact work, but conditioning can be done without, according to Wilner.

“It’s interesting that they have made (Oct. 31) the target as opposed to Nov. 7 or Nov. 14,” Wilner said. “It tells you that they want to get moving and play as many games as they can.”

Another major issue for the Pac-12 returning to play was the health restrictions in California, home to four of the 12 teams in the conference.

California guidelines limited practice to only 12 players, but Gov. Gavin Newsom said there was nothing in the guidelines denying the conference from holding games.

Newsom’s comments come after USC players urged the governor to ease restrictions.

“Newsom did not like being painted as the bad guy, which was happening,” Wilner said. “He basically washed his hands of it, which is clearance for the local authorities to also wash their hands of it.”

Wilner added local authorities in LA County have already made it clear to USC and UCLA they weren’t going to stand in their way if they wanted to get back on the practice field.

Starting on Oct. 31 could allow the conference to participate in the College Football Playoff, but Wilner doesn’t believe that factors into the quick start.

“Presidents are not going to make a decision … that prioritizes having a team eligible for the playoff,” he said. “They’re going to make a decision based on the soonest, safest date they can get on the field.”

Presidents and chancellors will gather Friday for a meeting that was planned before the recent developments, according to Wilner, adding the original meeting was to be about the college basketball season but the college football season will be discussed with a possible vote to resume.


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