SALT LAKE CITY — Welcome back, football fans. Today, we bring you yet another installment of — you guessed it — College Football is a Big Hot Mess, Volume Whatever (too many to count — college football is the gift that keeps on giving for a columnist). Today we turn our attention from the nail-biters of the Big Ten to another thoroughly dazed and confused conference, the Pac-12, led (sort of) by commissioner Larry Scott.
Scott’s idea of leadership during the era of COVID-19 is simple: Do whatever the Big Ten is doing. The man who is really leading the Pac-12 is Kevin Warren, the commissioner of the Big Ten, which is frightening because Warren has no idea what he’s doing, either, just like everyone else, it seems, while navigating the pandemic.
On July 9, Warren announced that the Big Ten would play only conference games this football season; a day later, Scott announced the Pac-12 would do the same. On Aug. 11, Warren announced that the Big Ten was canceling the football season, becoming the first Power Five conference to do so; later that same day, Scott announced the Pac-12 would do the same.
Then last Wednesday, Warren, who once said the decision to cancel the season would not be “revisited,” announced that the Big Ten would play a football season, after all; later that same day, there was Scott announcing the Pac-12 would try to resurrect its football season, too.
The Big Ten originally announced on Aug. 28 that it would study a way to return to football this fall, and then took three weeks before actually deciding to return. The Pac-12 is taking its time, too. Since making last week’s announcement, the Pac-12 has decided nothing except to decide to take more time thinking about it. During a meeting Friday, the league did not get around to voting on a way to start the season, but said it will make a decision Thursday.
Not that there’s any hurry. It’s only the week of Sept. 21 — one month into a normal season — and some teams have already played games. The earliest they could start is one month from now.
There’s little mystery here; the Pac-12, the lone Power Five conference that has not committed to playing this season, will play this season. All that really remains are details.
If the Pac-12 follows the Big Ten’s lead again and plays an eight-game schedule beginning Oct. 23-24, the conference championship game will be Dec. 19, one day before the selection of the College Football Playoff field. There has been talk of starting a week later. According to Jon Wilner of The Mercury News, it is likely that the Pac-12 will approve a Nov. 7 starting date and the conference championship on Dec. 19.
Either way, both late starting dates are problematic.
How much consideration should the Big Ten and Pac-12 be given in the national rankings and the national playoff if they are entering the season late and finishing late? Or if they play fewer games than, say, the Southeastern Conference and Big 12 (10 games) or the Atlantic Coast Conference (11 games).
If an abbreviated training camp is required to be ready in time for the start of the season, there could be an outbreak of injuries like the one the NFL has experienced two weeks into its season. On Sunday, the NFL saw an inordinate number of name players fall to injuries — Saquon Barkley, Nick Bosa, Drew Lock, Christian McCaffrey, Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert, Sterling Shepard, Tyrod Taylor, Parris Campbell, Cam Akers, DeVante Adams, Courtland Sutton and many more. That caused a number of observers to point to the NFL’s cancellation of preseason games. Training camps also were shortened and minicamps canceled.
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 is trying to figure things out while fans, players, coaches, advertisers and TV execs tap their fingers and look at their watches. There is much to sort out, but at least the Pac-12 has the Big Ten to show it the way.