On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that there is nothing stopping NCAA football from returning this year to California, contradicting weeks worth of statements from Pac-12 football conference commissioner Larry Scott and teams who have accused the Governor of halting play through stringent COVID-19 mandates.
Newsom, Pac-12 agree that there is nothing stopping NCAA football teams from playing this year
Tuesday’s letter by USC Trojan players urging the Governor to let them play broke Governor Newsom’s radio silence on the issue. The Governor, speaking between wildfire related engagements, said that not only do the COVID-19 guidelines do nothing to stop collegiate play, but that he was actively working with the Pac-12 to quickly integrate upgraded testing methods and to remove the current barrier of 12-man practices to get the season started this year.
“I want to make this crystal clear,” said Newsom on Wednesday. “Nothing in the state guidelines denies the ability for the Pac-12 to resume. Quite the contrary. That’s been a misrepresentation of the facts.”
“We put out very thoughtful guidelines, again in partnership with the NCAA about cohorting during workouts and practices. Now this manifests very differently depending on the sport. Basketball cohorting of up to 12 may be a little easier than football up to 12, but offensive teams, defensive teams are able to coordinate and practice and the like.”
“I talked to Larry Scott about two hours ago, so we’re committed to working with the Pac-12, working with the NCAA to keep our kids safe, to keep our coaches safe, to keep coaching staff and friends and family safe, and to keep the larger campus community safe. Remember, these are student-athletes. They’re not isolated in a bubble as some of our NBA superstars are. They need to be integrated in one way, shape or form with an academic paradigm — by definition, that’s what student-athletes are supposedly all about. That’s a deeper issue for all of us is to make sure the academic rigor is such that we’re doing justice to that paradigm and principle. But none the less, there is nothing in those state guidelines that deny these games from resuming.”
“So once again I look forward to working as we have been in a constructive dialogue with the Pac-12 and NCAA on testing issues. Again, good progress in that space, and as it relates to cohorting, we are certainly willing to engage and have now engaged the Pac-12 in that discussion as well.”
Hours later, after the talks with Newsom and Oregon Governor Kate Brown, commissioner Scott sent out a statement saying that state governments no longer were blocking college football from taking place, that rapid COVID-19 testing was being worked on, and that the delay now fell in the hands of county governments.
Statement from Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott on positive developments from governors of California and Oregon: pic.twitter.com/bZVuGT6vuW
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) September 16, 2020
Pac-12 season now rests in the hands of Alameda, Los Angeles, Santa Clara County governments
“This is going to be tricky, especially in California,” explained college football scout Joey Warner to the Globe. “For the Pac-12, 4 teams are in California: California, Stanford, UCLA, and USC. The first two are up North in Bay Area counties that have been willing to be a bit more open than, say, San Francisco County. But the big problem are the other two because they are in LA County. LA County has been really strict on sports reopening, with high school football only allowing workouts right now, and not scheduled to comeback until January. It has really screwed up scouting for me.”
“But these stricter rules can also just stop the season before it even begins. Oregon has teams in the Pac-12 and they may not commit either due to COVID-19 and the wildfires. And who knows, Stanford and Cal could still be stopped too.”
“I admit, I was unfair to put the blame on Newsom before, but both he and the conference just shifted the decision down the line a bit too. No one wants to be responsible for more outbreaks, especially after outbreaks are now being reported after NFL games last week.”
“But barring the colleges outright refusing, the counties are the last major bar now that the Pac-12 and the Governors have an agreement.”
The Pac-12 has been the last major college football conference holdout this year, with other holdout conferences such as the Big 10 announcing that they will be coming back earlier this week.
A few outstanding decisions, such as the current limit of 12 man practices and the inclusion of daily antigen testing, also remain unresolved but are expected to be resolved soon.
“It’s really just up to the counties of 12 teams now,” added Warner.