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Why has the Pac-12 been leading from behind?

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FILE: In this Oct. 10, 2015, file photo, a PAC-12 logo is displayed on the field before an NCAA college football game between Washington State and Oregon in Eugene, Ore.

Ryan Kang, Associated Press

PROVO — If the Pac-12 gets the football wheels churning this fall, it will be a welcome Johnny-come-lately move by the league’s leadership.

It will be good to see Pac-12 athletes compete and play like every other Power Five conference. Now that the Big Ten has decided to roll out games, it is only fair the Pac-12 does too.

It will be a big deal to get Utah football kickstarted and allow Ute athletes to realize their dreams and get a payoff for working so hard in the offseason. Ditto for the Mountain West, if that league kickstarts football as well.

But was it really all that wise to shut it down in the first place?

There are plenty who would argue yes, that it was prudent, careful, responsible and that decisions were made after careful study, consideration and science.

On the other hand, science has been a slippery fish in these times of COVID-19.

At first, masks weren’t necessary, now they’re critical. We shut down to flatten the curve so our hospitals weren’t overrun with cases, but after it flattened, businesses, including football and fall sports, were still on the chopping block and many may never recover.

As it stands, the Pac-12 will be the last of the Power Five leagues to reinstate football.

And there are those who say Pac-12 leadership did its due diligence, but in reality, they just followed the Big Ten from behind all the way.

In this regard, I feel sorry for the Pac-12 coaches, players and fans. 

Your presidents and chancellors played the part of the tail on the dog.

Matt Zemek of “Trojan Wire” wrote about the timeline of Pac-12 decisions compared to dates of Big Ten decisions. It’s a train and caboose story.

“This is a case of the Pac-12 following science to an extent, but being more firmly pulled in a given direction by the Big Ten and its own decisions. That is the precise point I am making here … and I don’t see how that point can be refuted,” wrote Zemek.

Here’s his timeline research:

“This past Wednesday, Sept. 16, the Big Ten decided in the morning to play fall football. By the end of Wednesday, a series of developments in the Pac-12 and its member states — chiefly California and Oregon — had given the conference an on-ramp back to fall football,” Zemek concludes.

When the Pac-12 ramps up football, there are major hurdles to consider, like a reorganized and competitive schedule based on in-conference games and the issue that some programs are further along starting than others. Should there be a staggered start with teams?

Fortunately, there have been tests created the past few weeks that bring quicker results, allowing athletic teams to access team health far more effectively than at the first of August.

Then there’s the fear factor of simply losing steam.

The panic, fear and race to avoid liability issues that ruled America since last spring are losing their effectiveness on the masses. This doesn’t mean social distancing and wearing of masks is not vital and important. It means people are figuring things out.

Thousands of high school football games are taking place across the country and healthy athletes are continuing to make plays. As the NFL ramps up there have been positive tests, just as there were positive tests in the cancellation of the BYU-Army game last week.

In Utah, we’re heading into week 6 of high school football, and with some 250 games played, there have been just a few games canceled.

But there is a huge difference in testing positive and actually being sick or at risk of hospitalization by young, strong athletes. What seems to be steering media reporting in sports is testing numbers. What we’re finding is that testing numbers can reveal an iffy meaning or science.

“Virtually all this reporting exclusively involved positive tests. But even calling these “cases,” as the media often do, is a stretch, because that implies disease or a condition where medical treatment is needed. The truth: actual cases have been rare, at least as far as we know,” writes Steve Malanga, the senior editor of City Journal in a piece entitled “The COVID story that the sports media won’t tell.”

The bottom line is when the Pac-12 gets to playing football, it is a good thing. It is good for our society, we need the distraction and entertainment. If the risk of COVID-19 is less than the risk of an ACL tear, an Achilles tendon rupture, a concussion, a Lisfranc foot fracture, a torn up shoulder or broken ankle, hand, arm or foot, why not?

Utah has an interesting QB situation brewing and has since winter.

It will be fun to plug into that and see what happens.

Good luck. Pac-12 fans deserve to see their teams play.