Pac-12 conference return on standby due to government restrictions

FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2019, file photo, Utah defensive back Terrell Burgess is shown during an NCAA football game against Southern California, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong, File)

After the Big Ten Conference reversed its decision to play football this fall, all eyes turned to the Pac-12: the only conference in the Power 5 without a plan to bring back sporting events.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott released a statement Wednesday saying they are waiting for governmental restrictions in California and Oregon to ease before making plans. He wrote:

"At this time, our universities in California and Oregon do not have approval from state or local public health officials to start contact practice. We are hopeful that our new daily testing capability can help satisfy public health official approval in California and Oregon to begin contact practice and competition.

We are equally closely monitoring the devastating fires and air quality in our region at this time. We are eager for our student-athletes to have the opportunity to play this season, as well as it can be done safely and in accordance with public health authority approvals."

University of Southern California players posted a letter on Twitter Tuesday to Gov. Gavin Newsom, asking for the state to ease public health restrictions so they could return to the field.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's office released a statement about the Pac-12 Wednesday saying the state's first priority is addressing the ongoing wildfires.

Gov. Brown's primary focus right now is on the ongoing wildfire response to save lives and protect homes across Oregon, including in Lane County. When it comes to college football, we all want to see the Ducks and Beavers take the field again. The Oregon Health Authority is in the process of working with Oregon’s universities to review their plans for team practices, to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches, and the wider university community.

Brown's Deputy Communications Director, Charles Boyle, also relayed more information in the following statement:

Governor Brown today is meeting with firefighters, first responders, and members of the incident management teams who have been on the frontlines working to save Oregonian lives and homes from the devastation of wildfires.
Representatives of the University of Oregon and Oregon State University athletic departments met with the Oregon Health Authority this afternoon to discuss their COVID-19 health and safety plans for their football teams. The universities have asked for an exemption to OHA’s sports guidance, just as Oregon’s professional sports team have been given. We have granted that request, and, under the new guidance, OHA must receive written plans for approval. (The full language of the guidance is below.)
Let me stress that, up to this point, we have received no written plans from the Pac12 for the upcoming season, and we have no details from the conference about their new rapid testing proposal. Until we have those details, we can’t move forward in the process.
We want Oregon and Oregon State’s players to be able to focus on football while protecting their health and safety. We also want to ensure that team practices will not be derailed by a COVID-19 outbreak that would threaten the health not only of the players and coaches, but of their university communities and the wider communities in Eugene and Corvallis.

ESPN reports that the conference struck a deal with an FDA-approved test manufacturer to provide daily testing capabilities earlier this month. Those tests are expected to be operational in early October.

If that leads to approval for contact practices, the Pac-12 may delay for six weeks before playing games, which could potentially start in mid-to-late-November, ESPN reported.

The Pac-12 announced in August that it would postpone its season due to the novel coronavirus.

The conference's CEO group voted unanimously to postpone all sports competitions through the end of the 2020 calendar year. The athletic conference said student-athletes impacted by the postponement will have scholarships guaranteed.

The announcement came hours after the Big Ten postponed its season.