SportsPulse: Dan Wolken and Paul Myerberg discuss if there will be college football this fall. As Wolken put its, all it takes is one bad outcome due to the pandemic to send the sport into chaos.
Pac-12 Conference commissioner Larry Scott said Thursday that college athletics officials will need to begin deciding whether they are prepared to go forward with sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic without all schools being able to field teams, even within the same conference.
Speaking during an interview on an NCAA Twitter channel, Scott also said that while the Pac-12 has been working toward playing a full football schedule in the fall — with all schools and their non-conference opponents having reached agreement on common standards for testing for infection — “there’s been a lot of work done” on other scheduling setups, including a spring season.
In the end, he predicted that decisions about having fall sports will be driven less by sport-based concerns, such as transmission through games’ physical contact, and more by campus- and community-level situations such as the recent outbreaks that have occurred in the South and West.
Within the Pac-12, the University of Southern California announced Wednesday that it will be changing academic plans for the fall and offering about 80% of classes online, similar to what had been outlined earlier this summer by UCLA. Last week, University of Arizona president Robert Robbins said that if he had to say now whether the school would be able to open, he would say no.
“I think what we’ve seen over the last few weeks gives us reason to be concerned that when campuses open up, there could be real spikes and pressures on the health care system,” Scott said. “From my perspective, that’s really the biggest risk to college sports in the fall.”
Asked about the issue of schools having varying testing protocols and resources, and how that might impact the football scheduling, Scott said he is “pretty confident” that Pac-12 officials can “get to an agreement among all the schools we play in football in the fall on a testing standard that would give us trust and confidence.”
But he also said there could be other reasons that would prevent the Pac-12 from playing a full season or starting, as scheduled, at the end of August.
As a result, “there’s been a lot of work done on a conference-only schedule, an abbreviated schedule, a postponed schedule, maybe even a spring schedule.”
More broadly, Scott said college sports officials are facing a fundamental decision point about what to do if all schools are not in a position to play various sports in the same way.
“One of the threshold considerations we’ll have to make as we think about fall sports coming up,” Scott said, “is whether we stick with the traditional approach that we’re either all moving forward together or none of us are moving forward together — whether that’s within the league, within the FBS, Division I or whether this is such a unique situation, with really varied experiences and situations on our campuses, that there might be some where there’s broad populations of students on our campuses and we can compete in college athletics and there might be some where we can’t.
“I don’t know what the answer to that will be. But I think we’re all trying to stay flexible and creative in our thinking. … And I think those of us that are involved in collegiate athletics need to be open to thinking about the different approaches possible.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Steve Berkowitz on Twitter @ByBerkowitz.