The Pac-12 has officially announced that the conference is canceling all non-conference events for fall sports. But that the mandatory athletic activities only start once health and safety metrics have been met.
“SAN FRANCISCO – The Pac-12 CEO Group announced today that the fall season for several Pac-12 sports, including football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball, would schedule Conference-only games, and that it is delaying the start of mandatory athletic activities, until a series of health and safety indicators, which have recently trended in a negative direction, provided sufficient positive data to enable a move to a second phase of return-to-play activities.Pac-12 press release
The Pac-12 also took the step of guaranteeing that athletes who don’t want to participate in the season due to health and safety concerns will keep their scholarship and remain in good standing with their teams. This will remove the penalty of losing their scholarships from the decision making process of athletes and allow them to focus on making the best decision for their health.
While the conference’s decision to allow the athletes to opt out and keep their scholarship is correct, the decision to limit the season to conference play remains unknown. The contracts signed for these series have been in place for along time and this could cause ripple down economic effects, especially on the smaller athletic departments (like WSU and OSU). Is money poor Washington State going to have to pay Idaho for a body bag game that never took play? Or is there an opt out clause that protects the university in case of unforeseen situations?
If these smaller schools, or even the private schools, see themselves having to make payouts for these canceled games it’s going to snowball on the departments. Which would mean greater cost and more debt for a lot of these schools in an environment where Stanford has already eliminated 11-scholarship sports over the economic fall out from the pandemic.
This could get ugly really fast if there are even more cost, especially with the fall sports season not even being guaranteed in this announcement. If the Pac-12 cancels the fall sports season due to the case surges we’re seeing across its territory…then there will be even more programs cut.
Honestly, I don’t see how we can safely have fall sports with the recent uptick in cases. There is too much risk for athletes with a respiratory disease that could harm them long term, if they survive it. But at least the release today shows the Pac-12 is aware of that and its trying to give its athletes a chance to make the decision on what’s best for their health and not their financial future.