July 31, 2020

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The principals on the Pac-12's Zoom call Friday. Top left, Stanford coach David Shaw; middle left, Pac-12 Network's Ashley Anderson; bottom left, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. Top right, Pac-12 Network's Yogi Roth; middle right, Arizona State AD Ray Anderson; bottom right, Oregon State associate AD (sports medicine) Doug Aukerman.      

 

When the Pac-12 announced its revised, 10-game, in-conference-only schedule Friday, the league's accompanying Zoom news conference involved, well, a lot of wishin' and hopin'.

 

Even since the announcements of the ACC and SEC schedules the two previous days, MLB's struggles -- three games were postponed Friday because of COVID-19 issues -- added to the unfortunate impression this will all turn out to be moot, that there won't be a 2020 fall college football season.

 

Beyond the daunting MLB developments, there were the COVID-19 cases popping up in college programs around the country and even the eight positives that led to Colorado State voluntarily hitting pause on football activities until the whole team can be tested or retested.    

 

I hope I am wrong.

 

I am afraid I will be right.     

 

If it does go forward, the schedule now calls for Colorado to open at Oregon on Sept. 26, per this:

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The changes from the original schedule include some date shuffling and, as previously announced, cutting the non-conference games -- Colorado State, Fresno State and Texas A&M. As part of  getting CU five home and five road dates, the Buffs' game against Oregon is on the same date as originally scheduled, but was moved from Boulder to Eugene. The Oregon State home game was added, ironic since CSU's game at Corvallis was scrubbed when the Pac-12 went to all league games. California remains off the schedule and now is the only Pac-12 team the Buffs wouldn't play.     

 

As I mentioned in my previous commentary, I understand the goal of getting something on the table as the goal, something to build off and, if necessary and possible, tweak along the way.

 

The no-man's land of waiting and seeing couldn't continue.

 

The alternative was to surrender to the possibility of a completely scrubbed season and bag it now, a move that would be a financial disaster for athletic departments. 

 

But the college football environment -- both now and potentially as the season approaches and begins play -- has a lot more in common with MLB than the under-the-bubble, hub conditions the NHL and NBA have set up for their resumptions of play.

 

An aside: MLB now is trying to peddle the falsity that with 30 teams and other realiities, hubs and bubbles -- something at one point under consideration for Arizona -- were impossible. They weren't impossible, even if the decision was to emulate the NHL and have two sites. And now commissioner Rob Manfred seems to be trying to blame the players for issues that were foreseeable under non-bubble conditons -- whether the transgressions are implied to be high fives, spitting or even jamming into a Newport Beach bar.

 

If you want to make it about athletes being held responsible to mitigate the chances of catching (or spreading) the virus, this is a league with universities in Berkeley, Seattle, Los Angeles, Tempe/Phoenix, plus other campuses that are typically collegiate. Including Boulder and Eugene.

 

So with all that in the hopper, how does college football in general, and the Pac-12 specifically, avoid the MLB issues?      

 

Arizona Sports producer Jesse Morrison asked Larry Scott about that on the Zoom conference Friday.

 

"You're right, there is no bubble," Scott responded. "And a bubble would not be appropriate in college sports and for our campuses. These are students. They're not going to be able to be quarantined or isolated in a bubble the same way pro sports do. We recognize that.

 

"It's one of the reasons why we go into this with a lot of humility in recognizing that we have a plan, we're going to follow medical guidance along the way and we're going to have to monitor how things go. It's one of the reasons why building in flexibilily (with staggered bye weeks, Oct. 17, Oct. 24 and Oct. 31) to the schedule is so important, Jesse. If there is an outbreak ... we're going in expecting that's a real possibility ... if that happens, especially with the 14-day quarantine period that's currently for anyone that's in close contact, (it) will require the rescheduling of a game. So basically, we have two opportunities for each team to potentially reschedule. Or delay the start.

 

"We realize there's some markets that don't have the requisite approval at the moment to start up. We need to make sure they've got a safe amd robust training camp to be able to play on time. If a team can't start on time, we've got the bye week for each schedule, too. If there's in interruption and a game , it can be rescheduled either into the bye week or December (12) week that we have. So we're actually going in expecting, Jesse, the scenario that you mentioned is a real possibility and likelihood and as much as possible, flex for that, knowing it's supposed to end by December 19. That's the balancing act we tried to strike here."

 

OK, that's an injection of realism.                     

 

But if this gets too dicey, it would be irresponsible to keep plowing ahead, like a tailback with his head down.   


What of CU, if the season is played?

 

The Buffs open at Oregon and play three of the first four on the road.

 

Karl Dorrell was hired late following Mel Tucker's bailout. The Buffs hadn't started spring practice when the COVID-19 shutdowns came. (To compare, first-year CSU coch Steve Addazio's Rams got in seven spring practices before the halt order came.) CU will go into this without a proven quarterback.

 

Perhaps Dorrell shouldn't get a completely free pass this season -- whatever this season turns out to be.  

 

But it should be pretty darn close to that.