SAN FRANCISCO — (USA TODAY) The Pac-12 will use a conference-only playing schedule for football and several other fall sports should teams be able to compete in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the conference announced Friday.
In doing so, the Pac-12 joins the Big Ten in becoming the second Power Five conference to make a decision that could foreshadow similar changes across the entire Bowl Subdivision.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports continues to be our number one priority,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement.
“Our decisions have and will be guided by science and data, and based upon the trends and indicators over the past days, it has become clear that we need to provide ourselves with maximum flexibility to schedule, and to delay any movement to the next phase of return-to-play activities.”
In addition, the conference said it would be delaying the beginning of all 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.”
There was “complete agreement” among Pac-12 athletics directors as the group discussed the viable options, Oregon State athletics director Scott Barnes said. “We were all in agreement that this was our best bet.”
While denying big paydays to teams from smaller conferences, the decision also cancels some significant games, starting with Southern California against Alabama in Arlington, Texas on Sept. 5 as well Notre Dame games against USC and Stanford.
“With the Pac-12’s decision to move to a conference-only schedule, we will do our best to adjust,” Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne said on Twitter. “What that looks like is to be determined.”
The executive director of the playoff, Bill Hancock, told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday that the selection committee will use the same protocols to determine the national semifinals and New Year’s Six bowls even if teams play fewer games than during a standard regular season or only face conference opponents.
"The fundamental mission of the committee has not changed: Choose the best four teams based on the protocol,” Hancock said.
“This is why the committee has 13 football experts. Their duty, their task, is to select the best four teams based on the play on the field and the schedules the conferences establish."
The Pac-12 had been discussing multiple scenarios for this coming season, a person familiar with the league’s talks told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday, including the possibility that the season would be delayed or even moved into the spring.
In its statement, the conference said that details on the conference-only schedules will be announced by the end of July.
The Pac-12’s decision came following an afternoon meeting of the league’s CEO Group, which is composed of university presidents and chancellors from member schools.
"The CEO Group made clear that it hopes to play football and all other fall sports provided that it can meet the health and safety needs of its student-athletes and obtain appropriate permissions from state and local health authorities," the statement said.
The remaining three members of the Power Five have yet to decide how to approach this coming season. The commissioner of the Big 12, Bob Bowlsby, told the Des Moines Register on Thursday that there was no forthcoming announcement from the conference.