Friday, the most overused word in college football during the COVID-19 pandemic was supposed to shift from “if” to “dominoes.”
It took most of the day, but it finally happened. At least in the Pac-12.
A day after the Big Ten made a surprise splash with its commitment to cancel all 42 of its non-conference football games in 2020 and commit to a conference-only format, the Pac-12 on Friday made a not-surprising mirrored move, following a conference call that included Pac-12 presidents, chancellors and athletics directors.
Both decisions have significant ramifications for Notre Dame in 2020.
ND’s Oct. 10 home game with Stanford and its Nov. 28 regular-season finale at USC will be deleted. The Big Ten’s move lopped another game off the ND schedule, an Oct. 3 Shamrock Series matchup with Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports continues to be our No. 1,” 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.”
The statement added that all ongoing workouts would remain in voluntary mode indefinitely, and that any student-athlete choosing to opt out of playing in 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns would not be in danger of losing their scholarship.
The league hopes to finalized the revised schedules by July 31.
Later Friday evening it was revealed that the Pac-12 commissioner had tested positive for COVID-19. The 55-year-old Scott experienced mild flu-like symptoms late this week, per the press release, and was tested for COVID-19 out of an abundance of caution. He is self-quarantining at the direction of his doctor "and is continuing to work remotely, as normal."
Mostly there was sort of a filibuster of varying degrees among the other three Power 5 conferences on Friday.
The Atlantic Coast Conference, independent Notre Dame’s backstop in the scheduling version of musical chairs, issued a statement Friday about the expected length of its deferral to make a scheduling decision.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and administrators remains the ACC’s top priority,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said via the statement. “As we continue to work on the best possible path forward for the return of competition, we will do so in a way that appropriately coincides with our universities’ academic missions.
“Over the last few months, our conference has prepared numerous scenarios related to the fall athletics season. The league membership and our medical advisory group will make every effort to be as prepared as possible during these unprecedented times, and we anticipate a decision by our Board of Directors in late July.”
The Southeastern Conference and Big 12 were quiet on Friday. Both leagues had previously scheduled meetings with league ADs and their respective commissioners set for early next week.
Notre Dame is scheduled to open the season Sept. 5 or 6 at Navy, a rivalry game that has been staged uninterrupted each of the past 93 seasons. And both sides appear to want to still make that happen in 2020.
But Navy’s conference, the American Athletic Conference, will have some say in the matter.
On Thursday, hours after the Big Ten bombshell, AAC commissioner Mike Aresco told the Orlando Sentinel: “We have not changed our plans at this point, and we’re evaluating things and we’ll see what happens down the road and we’ll continue to monitor and we’ll make our decisions at some point.”