If this is the way that the conference that gave us the likes of Christian McCaffrey and Aaron Rodgers is going to proceed with college football this fall, then the Pac-12 might as well change its name to the Pack-it-in-12.
The “logic” behind having to cancel the scheduled opener between Washington and Cal boggles the mind.
The Pac-12 couldn’t make up its mind
The Pac-12 developed an embarrassing follow-the-pack mentality in 2020 as sports leagues and conferences at all levels dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the second week of August, Pac-12 administrators found themselves at a crossroads after the NBA and Major League baseball had fully committed to resuming their seasons and the NFL remained on a path to start as scheduled.
Hours after Big Ten officials decided to call off football in the fall with an eye toward playing in the spring instead, the Pac-12 followed suit. Pac-12 officials said the vote was unanimous and came after consultation with their COVID-19 medical advisory committee. Nevertheless, the announcement came only after the Big Ten had provided cover by becoming the first Power 5 conference to say no to playing in the fall based in large part on concerns that COVID-19 was spawning cases of myocarditis, a heart condition.
However, the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 all stood firm in their commitment to play in the fall. That contributed to a powerful backlash in Big Ten and Pac-12 states.
On Sept. 24, Pac-12 administrators finally relented and announced that its schools would play a seven-game schedule beginning Nov. 6, citing “extensive consultation with stakeholders on the evolving information and data related to health and safety.” They could just as well have cited the actual reason: The Big Ten had done a 180-degree reversal the week before, and the Pac-12 people didn’t want to be the only holdout among major conferences.
The Pac-12 season is off to a disastrous start
The Pac-12 announced on Nov. 5 that the scheduled opener this weekend between Washington and Cal has been canceled because of a single positive COVID-19 test on the Cal roster. Rather than a school or a conference problem, however, this is a governmental issue.
Because the one defensive lineman tested positive, The Mercury News reports that the entire position group was quarantined under the regulations of the state of California and City of Berkeley health officials.
Cal coach Justin Wilcox said the other players all tested negative, but the health department won’t bend. The decision creates a precedent that only directly affects Cal and its opponents, but cancellations could continue throughout the fall.
They should forget about a berth in the College Football Playoff
When ACC administrators voted to proceed with their fall football season, they rebuilt schedules into 11 games over 13 weeks, leaving room to make up some games that might be postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests. That’s the case this weekend with the Louisville at Virginia game now pushed back to Nov. 14.
The Big 12 opted for a 10-game season, as did the SEC.
Part of the reason the Pac-12 relented about fall football was to salvage its television contracts. Some of that money could have evaporated due to competition with basketball had the Pac-12 tried playing football in February and March.
The other reason for reversing course was the possibility of having the Pac-12 champion earn a berth in the College Football Playoff. Including a team playing only seven games at the expense of one that played 10 was already dubious.
But if Pac-12 teams cancel more games as easily as Washington vs. Cal was dropped, then there’s even less justification for considering a Pac-12 candidate for one of the berths in the semifinals.