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How will Pac-12 deal with game cancellations, tiebreakers? Here’s what you need to know

Conference gearing up in case of COVID-19 impacts

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An aerial view shows Rice-Eccles Stadium, home of the University of Utah football team, a member of the Pac-12, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

Julio Cortez, Associated Press

Details, details, details. The Pac-12 released policies for football game cancellations and an updated tiebreaker procedures in an announcement Monday.

Citing coordination with the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Initiative’s Medical Advisory Committee and the conference’s medical experts, minimum standards have been established. All local health guidelines also apply to the rules, which will be continuously updated as necessary.

The Pac-12 is scheduled to play a seven-game, conference-only season beginning the first week of November. Teams will play all five division opponents and one crossover game.

GAME CANCELLATIONS: The Pac-12 has ruled that a minimum of 53 scholarship players must be available to participate. The following position also have number counts: seven offensive linemen, four defensive linemen and one quarterback. Position rosters must be submitted to the conference office prior to the season opener. Impacted programs have the option to play with less than 53 scholarship players or shortages at the aforementioned positions. Otherwise, with commissioner Larry Scott’s approval, the game will be rescheduled or declared no contest. 

COVID-19 SITUATIONS: Games should be rescheduled or declared no contest if certain COVID-19-related situations arise. The list of impacts include:

• An inability to isolate new positive cases within a team or athletic department or to quarantine high-risk contacts.

• Unavailability or inability to perform testing as provided by the Pac-12 medical guidelines.

• Campuswide or local community transmission rates that are considered unsafe by local public health officials.

• An inability to perform adequate contact tracing consistent with governmental requirements.

• Local public health officials of the home team state that there is an inability for the hospital infrastructure to accommodate a surge.

Tiebreaker scenarios

In the event of an unbalanced schedule, teams must have played no less than one fewer game than the conference average, round up or down at .50. An explanation was provided in the announcement. “For example, if the average number of conference games played in the 2020 season is 5.25 (value of 5 when rounded down), a team would be eligible to win their division if that team played four conference games.” 

Teams with the best winning percentage (including division and crossover play) will be crowned champions. In the event of a tie because of an unbalanced schedule, head-to-head results will be the determining factor. 

Additional determinations apply if any team is not able to play six games due to not being able to reschedule (there are no bye or open weeks available). Finishing within one victory of the highest winning percentage and an equal number of losses to the leader shall be declared a tie at the top.

• Two-team tie: 1. head to head; 2. record within the division; 3. result against the next highest-placed team in the division (based on all conference games); 4. record in common games; 5. College Football Playoff ranking; 6. cumulative winning percentage of each tied team’s conference opponents; 7. best SportSource Analytics team rating score metric); 8. coin toss.

A similar process without the coin flip is in place for multiple ties to reduce the number of teams to two.

The home team for the Pac-12 Championship will be determined by a tiebreaker, if necessary, as well. The scenario includes: 1. head-to-head; 2. record against the next highest-placed common opponent; 3. record in common games; 4. team with the highest College Football Playoff (CFP) ranking; 5. highest ranking by SportSource Analytics; 6. coin toss.

And finally, there’s even a tiebreaker procedure is case the average number of games is four or less. It begins with best winning percentage and is only topped by a head-to-head win. Things could eventually be settled by a coin toss.