The latest on the Pac-12's attempt to have a 2020 college football season

Will Stanford's slavish dedication to amateurism derail the process?

Happy Monday everybody! For the first time in a while that greeting actually feels almost genuine. Some spots in California finally started seeing blues skies again last week, and the worst of the summer heat has gone. And at some point this week the Pac-12 will probably announce a schedule for 2020 football. Probably! There hasn’t been a ton of confirmed news since everything that broke late last week, but there’s been plenty of sourced reporting, so let’s catch up.

Pac-12 Football is still going to happen

Because the conference is almost certainly going to vote to play football.

I don’t mean to be glib, but on Friday Jon Wilner’s latest article focused more on the logistics of how and when football would be played, not if:

Pac-12 athletic directors are targeting Oct. 31 as the preferred start of the football season, pending approval from the presidents and subject to the easing of local health restrictions, according to conference sources.

And while the Pac-12 presidents on Friday elected to delay their decision until Sept. 24th, everybody connected to the process is in agreement with what the vote will be.

Still, there are major logistical issues that need to be worked out. Let’s go over each one:

How much practice and conditioning time are necessary to play?

Bruce Feldman at The Athletic explored that very issue in a column last Friday, noting that local health restrictions and poor air quality significantly curtailed team activities up and down the West Coast. Here’s the most eye-opening quote:

“I don’t wanna hear health and wellness out of anybody’s mouth,” one Pac-12 head coach said Thursday morning before adding that his team had at least six injuries in one day in the training camp run-up in the late summer. “The We Are United players, they have a fucking point. It’s not fucking ping pong. You don’t just open the garage door and go play.

It certainly won’t go unnoticed around the league that the NFL had a rash of high-profile injuries on Sunday, though it’s dangerous to directly equate those injuries with a lack of preparation time.

It appears likely that the Pac-12 will defer to their medical advisers, who per Wilner advise 6 weeks of team activity prior to games. This is likely to be a key discussion point between now and Thursday, though one assumes it only impacts the date of restart, and not whether or not a restart happens in the first place.

Is there conference unity about restarting football?

R.J. Abeytia at 247 published a fascinating article this weekend from sources indicating that Stanford’s administration has significant concerns about restarting football:

Details about Stanford’s communication with both the league and its own players suggest that the Cardinal does have concerns about its athletes’ health in playing a football season, but perhaps the main tenet of Stanford’s objection is the matterof amateurism. The argument is that football players, as student-athletes, should not receive preferential treatment over other students – and in this case, very simply, be allowed on campus to participate in a university activity when other students are not.

Stanford University, passionate amateurism defenders! What moral clarity! You know, if you guys really believes in amateurism that much, you’d stop offering scholarships to your athletes . . .

Stanford’s Jacquish & Kenninger Director of Athletics Bernard Muir in the past has threatened to take Stanford athletics in a different direction if the University’s athletes went beyond amateurism, including moving the school to another NCAA division. Muir told Congress in 2018 that if Stanford student athletes were allowed to unionize, the school “might opt not to compete at the level we are competing in.”

Figures that the thing that will eventually kill the Cal/Stanford rivalry is Stanford’s moral objection to younger, largely minority students profiting off of their talents.

As you might expect, Stanford’s haughtier-than-thou stance is at odds with schools like Utah, who haven’t had the restrictions like the California and Oregon schools, and who would like to start the season ASAP. As a result, you get some snippy anonymous quotes released to various reporters around the conference, but in terms of actual public statement the conference will no doubt work very hard to present a unified front to avoid the public relations disaster that the Big-10 endured.

Stay tuned for a busy week with lots of sourced and unsourced rumors

For the next three days, until the conference presumably announces something following their meeting on Thursday, newspapers, sports websites, and twitter will be full of breathless reporting. How far behind is UCLA in their conditioning? How itchy are the Washington and Mountain schools to start playing? How high on their horse is Stanford? How much does everybody’s exasperation with Larry Scott slowing down proceedings?

Depending on your point of view, this will be either hilarious and entertaining or tedious and annoying. Very little of the above is actually important. What IS important is how persnickety Bay Area city and county health departments are, and what kind of advice university presidents get from their medical advisory panel. Those are the material details that will likely lead to a schedule of actual Pac-12 football, whether it starts on Halloween or some time in mid-November.