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Big Ten votes to begin football season next month, leaving Pac-12 as lone Power Five conference not playing

At one point, Scott was asked about his league and the Big Ten seemingly making decisions on a parallel track. Scott happily noted that a high priority would be to align the Pac-12 and Big Ten seasons “in a way that not only could our student-athletes have a Pac-12 championship game and champion, but it would be awesome to have some of the traditional postseason opportunities the Pac-12 and Big Ten have enjoyed with each other over many, many decades.”

The ACC and Big 12 are already playing. The SEC will begin a 10-game conference-only schedule on Sept. 26, and the Big Ten is not far behind. Meanwhile, although the Pac-12 has moved judiciously through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now on an island and what the future holds is, at best, an educated guess right now.

Assuming rapid-response testing goes off without a major hitch at the end of this month, the best-case scenario for starting a Pac-12 football season is around Thanksgiving. A more prudent approach might be to start in January, but either way, Pac-12 teams aren’t going to be eligible for the College Football Playoff.

In fairness, the Pac-12 is facing unique challenges its Power Five brethren are not. California and Oregon are under strict local and state health ordinances, meaning the six teams from those two states — Cal, Oregon Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA and USC — are not allowed to practice fully. The arrival of rapid-response testing may help ease those restrictions, but that is merely conjecture.

“At this time, our universities in California and Oregon do not have approval from state or local public health officials to start contact practices,” Scott said in a statement provided to The Salt Lake Tribune by the Pac-12. “We are hopeful that our new daily testing capability can help satisfy public health official approvals in California and Oregon to begin contact practice and competition.  We are equally closely monitoring the devastating fires and air quality in our region at this time.  We are eager for our student-athletes to have the opportunity to play this season, as soon as it can be done safely and in accordance with public health authority approvals.”

Regardless of when Pac-12 football starts, the league would be moving forward alone. With that, plus no CFP possibility and any semblance of bowl games up in the air, what would the appetite really look like for a season?

Money would of course be a consideration with Pac-12 athletic departments in various states of financial distress, including Utah, which has projected a loss of up to $60 million if no football is played. Recouping media revenue is key here, but that would require media entities to sign up for a winter/spring season involving one Power Five and presumably a host of Group of Five conferences. While the appetite for actually playing football would be a question, so too would the appetite to actually air it.

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