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July 13, 2020



Colorado athletic director Rick George knew this would come up, so he addressed it right at the start of his Zoom conference with media members Monday.


In fallout related to the Pac-12's move to an all-conference football schedule this season, whenever that is, CU's scheduled first visit in 63 years to the Colorado State campus for a game with the Rams has been scrubbed. (I'll assume the details from that previous commentary remain on the record, and that this is a follow-up.) 


George emphasized that this was tied to seeking a uniform approach to COVID-19 response through the league and schedules, and wasn't tied to geography and travel distances.  


"We felt like this was a necessary next step to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes throughout the fall semester," George said of he move, which. also involved other fall sports. "We felt like this decision gave us the most flexibility for making a decision over the coming weeks and months.


"Another aspect of the decision, again, was the testing protocols that our conference had. Again, health and safety is at the forefront of our decision making. We get informed quite often from the doctors in our conference and our decisions are guided by their input. We will have uniform surveillance testing amongst all the schools in the Pac-12 and it was important for us to make sure that all of us had the same testing protocols in place as we moved forward."


Then he turned to CSU. In an additional home-and-home contract, CSU is at CU in 2023 and CU is at CSU in 2024 before the series again goes on hiatus.    


"I am disappointed that we won't be playing CSU and being able to go up in their new stadium," George said. "We were looking forward to that. This has been a great series and we're disappointed that we will not be kicking off our season with CSU. I spoke to (CSU AD) Joe Parker on Friday after our conference made the decision."


A little later, I asked George about not being able to create an "exception" on the otherwise all-conference schedule and the resentment the cancellation caused in CSU country. (CAM is mad.)  


"Look, Joe Parker and I are good friends," George said. "We wear different colors, but we communicate quite often. He knows how difficult a decision that was for our conference and for us individually. I'd love to play Colorado State. Joe and I will continue to have discussions on the future. Yeah, I read a little bit on Twitter how they feel about me up there, but again it was a decision our conference made. I support our conference decision. Would I have liked to have been able to play CSU? The answer is yes."   


George said he also talked with the ADs at Texas A&M and Fresno State, the other non-conference opponents lopped.       


"We will continue to have dialog with all of those about rescheduling these non-conference games in the future," he said.


All that said, the optics of the Rocky Mountain Showdown cancellation are awful.


CU is dropping a 50-mile bus trip to Fort Collins for their first appearance in Canvas Stadium, which opened in 2017. 


In the probable bumping of the Pac-12 schedule from nine to 10 or 11 games, plus with the tinkering necessary to balance out schedules, CU likely will add one more trip to the West Coast -- to Oregon State and/or California, currently not on the Buffs' schedule. The details of whether, or how many, fans can attend the games -- anywhere -- remain to be crystallized as the situation changes daily. 


This almost comes off as if the Pac-12 schools (and, earlier, the Big Ten) are saying they don't trust their non-league opponents and other leagues to be in line with scrupulous testing and protocols.


Two of the major games scrubbed -- Michigan-Washington and Oregon-Ohio State -- are Pac-12 vs. Big Ten matchups.


Iowa (Big Ten) vs. Iowa State (Big 12) also will be axed.  


Notre Dame was scheduled to face USC and Stanford.


It seems likely that the other Power 5 leagues, with the possible exception of the Southeastern Conference, will fall in line with the all-league schedule approach, too. 


I'm not an expert on on any of that, but I'll repeat: There should have been a way for the basic principle of all-league games to be in place, while keeping one short-travel or traditional game on each schedule.


In a perfect world, CU could have declared at the conference meetings that it wanted to stick with the intrastate 2020 game in Fort Collins as a matter of principle. But nothing in this world is perfect at this point, and it would be silly to think that CU's motive to even a tiny extent was to dodge CSU this season, under whatever conditions the game would be played -- on Sept. 5 or any other date.


George said the athletic directors touched on those sorts of games.


"We felt that what was most important, is that we play football this fall," George said. "And for us, we felt the best way for us to do that was to play conference-only because then we could assure that we all have the same protocols in place, the same consistency across the board and it gave us the most flexibility in scheduling those contests." 


George said moving the season to the spring is at least on the table -- but he also emphasized a lof of other things are, too. And that especially will be the case if it becomes obvious "this" season will be scrapped, period.


CU has 17 sports, one above the NCAA Division I minimum. George indicated there are no current plans to dop a sport, but he also noted that schools dropping sports and falling under that minimum could be possible under a waiver process as long as there's a plan presented to eventually get back up to 16.


And CSU?


The Rams still have non-conference games on the schedule vs. Northern Colorado in Fort Collins and at Vanderbilt. So a possible SEC decision to go all league games in football would leave the Rams with three games against Power 5 conference reps canceled.