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Cal Football

Pac-12 Still Mulling Options on Football

September 3, 2020

Cal head coach Justin Wilcox was hoping the Pac-12 would have a decision on its football season by Sept. 1. That date has come and gone and still, no official word from the conference has come down.

Some view this silence as an indication that some form of a fall schedule is still a possibility. There are noises from Big 10 country to that effect, and that could be significant for the Pac-12 because the two seem to be acting in concert on this matter, though with Week 0 already passing and Week 1 coming up in just two days for the other three Power 5 conferences, it’s hard to imagine how either conference could pull off a fall schedule of any kind.

Ohio State president Kristina Johnson told a local television station football this fall was still possible

“We’ve learned about how we can have what’s called a clean field,” Johnson told NBC4. Players on the field that are negative, that can play, that we can be playing football — and we’re working through that process. We’re working with the Big Ten, we’re working with the commissioner to try and get in place those medical protocols where we can keep our students safe. And that’s really what it comes down to. We want to make sure that our athletes get a shot because they’ve worked really hard. And they deserve a shot to play. At the same time, we want to make sure that they’re safe. So we’re doing our work. We’ll come back, and I’m very hopeful that we’ll be playing football this fall.”

That is certainly an optimistic viewpoint, but if the SEC, ACC and Big 12 are playing the Big 10 -- or at least certain members -- doesn’t want to fall too far behind.

Johnson did not specify how early she thought such a season could start. One wild idea coming from that part of the college football world called for the season to begin in mid-to-late October. Since most coaches say six to eight weeks of on-field practices would be necessary, those would have to begin this week. Given the state of coronavirus protocol no way that is going to happen. Another scenario has the first games being held Thanksgiving weekend and the season carrying into 2021. 

Such talk was given credence by the phone conversation earlier this week from The U.S. Caller in Chief (aka Donald Trump) and Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren. The path to that long-distance talk was smoothed by White House Director of Public Liaison, Timothy Pataki, a 2007 Ohio State graduate. Trump urged Warren to have the Big 10 play this fall as if it was the commish’s decision. It isn’t. That call was made by the college’s presidents and chancellors, who apparently were unmoved by Trump’s entreaties. 

Still, there are many with influence in the Big 10 who thought canceling the season so early was a mistake. And it has been reported that the Big 10 powers might have a revote as early as this week. 

That the Big 10 might change its collective mind gives life to the rumors about Pac-12 in the fall, or at least before the new year. 

But what is more likely is for the Pac-12 to wait until 2021, when it is hoped science will have a better idea about how to control the pandemic, maybe even have a vaccine.

One report has the conference considering a six to eight game winter/spring season The six-game schedule would consist of five conference games and an out of conference sixth game. Assuming the Big 10 has given up the fall idea, the Pac-12 would like to pair off its teams with the Big 10 (remember Big 10 us just a name, not an accurate count. The conference has 14 football members). Dreaming on, those “sixth-game” matchups could include an encounter between the respective champions in that stadium in Pasadena named for a flower. Wouldn’t that be a grand way to end a 62-year drought? And Cal fans know what drought I am talking about. 


That six-game season would start Saturday, Feb. 6 , and run through March 13, with no bye weeks. It would include a long “training camp” starting as early as late September with practices limited to small groups.

An eight-game version would start play a week or two earlier. Either would end soon enough to allow adequate recuperation time before 2021 training camp begins in August. It would also allow higher-caliber players who have a season and wrap up their careers prior to the NFL draft, usually held in April. Cameryn Bynum, for one, would appreciate this. 

The fact that some FBS conferences, including three of the Power 5 are starting their seasons as early as ten days from now, while others are apparently waiting until spring, has created an awkward landscape. Because determining a national champion has become such a priority to a lot of college fans, how would that be determined with not everyone playing at the same time?

Would the FBS stick to the playoff format with only those teams playing in the fall eligible to participate? That certainly would not go over well at Ohio State, Penn State or Oregon?  Maybe we should go back to the bad old days of determining the national champ by voting. 

I thought problems such as this were the reason the NCAA was created in the first place. But since the pandemic hit and March Madness was called off, the organization has been on the sidelines. 

Arizona State coach Herman Edwards this week called out the NCAA. In a Zoom meeting with ASU journalism students, Edwards responded to a question and said the current situation was not a “good look” for the NCAA. 

“Because they had an opportunity to make a decision to shut everybody down and they said, ‘Look, we’re going to go by your own conference and presidents. You guys decide,’” Edwards said. “They didn’t want to deal with the hot potato, so they stepped out and they kind of left it. And some people will say it’s political, depending on where in the country you play. And some parents have gotten involved as well. So it’s a mess. Because there’s no order, right? In life, we like order. If everybody’s not playing and some people are playing and some people are trying to play in the spring, it’s just a mess.”

That sounds like what someone who started his college playing career at Cal would say. Once a Bear, always a Bear,

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