This post was updated Sept. 19 at 10:25 p.m.
There is traction for the Pac-12 to return to the gridiron this fall, according to multiple outlets.
But even with most of the medical and bureaucratic hurdles cleared, drama still reportedly remains behind the scenes following the conference’s CEO Group meeting Friday.
The meeting ended without a vote on whether or not to approve a fall season, but the general impression from The Mercury News, Bruin Report Online and others is that a resumption of play is inevitable. Multiple outlets have reported the Pac-12 football season will begin the weekend of either Oct. 31 or Nov. 7. Jon Wilner of The Mercury News, however, reported rising tensions over the past few days, including disputes between schools on when a season can realistically start.
Wilner reported the conference was ready to announce an Oct. 31 start date as soon as Saturday morning, but that UCLA claimed it was not ready to meet that deadline. Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday night that UCLA would, in fact, be ready by Oct. 31 if necessary.
UCLA Athletics denied the Daily Bruin’s request for comment on the reports.
The Pac-12 CEO Group will reconvene Thursday, according to a statement the conference released Friday night.
Statement from the Pac-12 CEO Group: pic.twitter.com/j7n1vZQ2dz
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) September 19, 2020
The Big Ten, which had also previously delayed its football season until 2021, announced it would start games the weekend of Oct. 24 when it agreed to return to play Wednesday. That quick of a resumption was not necessarily in the cards for the Pac-12.
The Pac-12 was once leading the Big Ten in its return efforts, securing daily student-athlete COVID-19 testing from health care manufacturer Quidel on Sept. 3 – nearly two weeks before the Big Ten did the same. Confusion and conflict with local governments seemingly stalled the return process, however.
Los Angeles County health officials only opened the door for UCLA and USC to return to practice late Wednesday night, while Stanford and California are still waiting on approval for full-squad practices from Bay Area health officials.
Coach Chip Kelly is among the many coaches who have claimed players need six weeks of training camp and full-team practices before starting competition, a position he has taken since a teleconference with the media in early April.
That six-week time frame – should it start Monday – would allow the Pac-12 season to start the weekend of Oct. 31. Instead, Bruin Report Online is reporting an Oct. 9 start date for conference-approved practices, potentially locking in the Nov. 7 opening weekend.
A Nov. 7 start date would still allow the Pac-12 to finish its seven-game season before the College Football Playoff committee announces its four semifinalists Dec. 20.
Bruin Report Online also reported teams are expected to play a six-game regular season, with the Pac-12 Championship Game and other seeding-based matchups all taking place the weekend of Dec. 19.