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Cal Football

Decision Time for Pac-12 Football

August 9, 2020

This week will be huge for the future of the Pac-12 football season, and things are not looking good.

First there is the coronavirus that led the league to reduce its members’ football schedule to ten games, intraconference only. With the number of virus cases surging, the season could be postponed until spring or canceled all together.

And then the league must deal with the #WeAreUnited group of players, who presented a wide-ranging list of demands last weekend coupled with a threat to sit out the season if they are not met. Thursday night a group of players had a phone meeting with commissioner Larry Scott. Initial reports were that the call was cordial and productive, but the New York Times reported that was not the case.

The conference has made no move toward eliminating football this autumn, but some dominoes are starting to fall.

On Saturday the MAC became the first FBS conference to call off its fall sports schedule, including football. Whether the schedule will be moved to the spring or just canceled is unclear. 

And the Big Ten announced that it will not progress to padded practices for now, and that the conference wants “further evaluation” before allowing players to engage in full-contact football. That represents a step back for the conference, and The Detroit Free Press reported that Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren now favors a spring football season. All of that could influence the Pac-12.

According to the website Wildcat Authority, some  Pac-12 officials, school presidents, and medical officials have recently discussed cancelling the football season. Although nothing is necessarily imminent, those conversations included what a statement would look like should a cancellation happen.

Meanwhile the New York Times reported that the players of $WeAreUnited were less than thrilled with Scott’s reaction during their phone call on Thursday.

According to the Times, “the players said Scott criticized their statement on The Players’ Tribune as a ‘misguided P.R. stunt.’

That obviously did not sit well. Cal’s Valentino Daltoso, a senior offensive lineman who was on the call said, “It was not very productive. We did not come away with many answers. He made it very clear that he does not want to meet again.”

“He boasted how progressive the conference has been in giving the players a voice, but the way he treated us didn’t reflect that,” said Otito Ogbonnia, a junior defensive tackle at UCLA. “I don’t think he thought of us as people who were making a legitimate case. ”

The conference has made it clear that some of the financial demands, particularly 50 per cent of a sport’s revenue being shared by the players, was a non-starter. The call apparently dealt primarily with health, safety and eligibility issues. 

The players’ characterization of the meeting, in their first public comments in a group interview with Times, is a big contrast with the some reports in which the meeting was termed as “productive” or “constructive” by unnamed sources.

Teams have been given the go-ahead to start practice next Monday, Aug. 17, but there is no assurance that will happen.

Pac-12 presidents will meet in a regularly scheduled call on Tuesday. However, that timeline could change in "20 minutes" to organize a conference call if the situation continued to shift, according to one league official.

In one bit of good news last week, the state of California released its  coronavirus health and safety guidance. Those are measures required in order for practice to start and for games to begin in late September.

And the specifics, which allow for home games — albeit without fans — are manageable.

The four Pac-12 teams affected, Cal, Stanford, USC and UCLA still need local sign-off from the cities and counties.

Also before practice can begin, the schools need specifics from the NCAA and the Pac-12’s medical advisory committee on return-to-play protocols that would standardize safety practices for all 12 teams.In some instances, the Pac-12 protocols could be more stringent than the states’.

The loss of revenue if football is canceled or postponed could be potentially devastating to athletic programs already under financial stress, Several schools could be forced to drop sports without that cash.

However, the San Jose Mercury reported that the Pac-12 could come to the rescue. According to the Merc, the conference is planning a mammoth loan program for cash-strapped athletic departments in the event the football season is canceled according to internal documents and conference sources.

Football accounts for the majority of each department’s revenue, generating in excess of $50 million in ticket sales and media rights alone.The loan program would be large enough to cover that loss for each school, if needed:




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