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Report: Pac-12 targeting Halloween start for 2020 football season

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 17, 2020

Fans pose for a photograph during the second half of an NCAA college football game between Washington State and New Mexico State in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019.   (Associated Press)
Fans pose for a photograph during the second half of an NCAA college football game between Washington State and New Mexico State in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019.  (Associated Press)

When the week began, the concept of a late-starting Pac-12 football season still appeared to be a long shot, even though the conference’s recent partnership with American testing manufacturer Quidel Corp.was considered a major breakthrough.

Four days later and there’s a chance fans on the West Coast may be enjoying their Halloween candy with a full slate of Pac-12 football games.

Less than 24 hours after governors in California and Oregon gave Pac-12 schools in those states approval to begin full-contact practice – the biggest hurdle the league faced in its effort to get back on the field – the conference is sketching out plans for a late October start date, according to a Thursday report from Jon Wilner of The Mercury News.

Halloween is the target for the start of the Pac-12 football season, but for the conference to get there, it still must obtain approval from health officials in the counties where Stanford, California, Oregon and Oregon State play, as well as approval from the league’s presidents.

“It might be a challenge, but many of us would like to play then,” a source told Wilner. “We think it’s possible.”

According to the report, the conference would need to build its schedule around a Dec. 19 conference championship game, which wouldn’t leave much wiggle room if it plans to play 7-8 games. If the Pac-12 opened on Oct. 31, it could conceivably play seven regular-season games without a bye week, or six games with a bye week.

The conference still needs to overcome a set of hurdles in order to proceed with a Halloween start date. Per Wilner’s report those are: navigating the last batch of local health restrictions, gaining consensus on the training camp schedule and getting approval from the Pac-12 CEOs.

Wednesday night, athletic directors from USC and UCLA obtained approval from health officials in Los Angeles County, according to multiple reports, and according to ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura, Santa Clara County is requesting a “detailed plan” from Stanford before it can facilitate team practice and games.

The antigen testing provided by Quidel will be available to all 12 conference members by the end of the month, and even though teams aren’t able to initiate full-contact practice until then, there’s a chance they could begin ramping up to the season with mandatory strength and conditioning workouts.

Before the Pac-12’s postponement in August, many teams, including Washington State, were permitted to start the 20-hour-per-week access period, which allows coaches to conduct walk-throughs and other football-related activities with players – an upgrade from the mandatory eight-hour-per week workouts that had taken place the week prior.

According to Wilner’s report, teams would presumably need two weeks of noncontact work and four more weeks of full-contact practice before they could safely begin playing games.

The Pac-12’s presidents and chancellors had previously scheduled a meeting Friday to discuss the college basketball season, but now the football restart figures to be the focal point of the conversation.

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