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Pac-12 targeting return to football as soon as October, early November

Conference commissioner Larry Scott ends wild day with some details on ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter’

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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A wild day ended with some clarifications Wednesday night in the Pac-12. Conference commissioner Larry Scott made things a little more clear during an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

Scott’s comments followed a roller coaster ride that put the Pac-12 in position to play football sooner than once expected. Governors in California and Oregon helped clear paths for Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA and USC to begin practices — when applicable — as health officials establish exceptions to coronavirus pandemic protocols in their respective communities. Certain guidelines still need to be met with respective cities and counties, including rapid COVID-19 testing. The conference previously announced that the necessary equipment should be on each campus by the end of the month.

“Getting the local county approvals as soon as possible would allow our student-athletes and our coaches to start what we think of as normal practice,” Scott told ESPN. “Then the best scenario is six weeks of practice, training camp and starting (games at the) end of October, early November. But that’s still subject to county approvals, which we don’t have yet.”

When it comes to consideration for a berth in the College Football Playoff, Scott acknowledged that the Pac-12 is “behind the eight ball” because of the late start. 

“But we determined early on we’re only going to play if we can do it safely and in a way that’s consistent with our medical professionals’ comfort level,” Scott said in the ESPN interview.

If things come together rapidly, Scott noted, the Pac-12 could have a very meaningful season and be in the hunt for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

UCLA and USC have reportedly already received assurances from Los Angeles County. Oregon and Oregon State also have some clearance from their state’s health authorities, leaving the Bay Area has the lone remaining area to do so.

ESPN.com’s Kyle Bonagura is reporting that the Pac-12’s CEO Group is scheduled to discuss options for the conference. Jon Wilner of the Bay Area News Group wrote that conference athletic directors are targeting an Oct. 31 start date for games. 

Wilner noted that the three primary hurdles that remain include the Bay Area health restrictions, a conference-wide consensus on a training camp schedule, and approval from the CEOs. No full contact can begin until daily antigen tests are available. The necessary equipment is expected to be on each campus by the end of the month.

If all goes well, Dec. 19 could be the date for the Pac-12 Championship Game — one day before the CFP pairings are announced.

University of Utah officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.