By Lydia Chen
The Pac-12 announced on Friday that it would go to a conference-only 2020-21 season for all fall sports — including football, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball. The decision comes a day after the Big Ten made a similar announcement due to COVID-19 health concerns.
Just two days prior to the Pac-12’s announcement, The Ivy League canceled the 2020-21 fall season for all sports, becoming the first and only Division I conference to do so thus far.
“Our decisions have and will be guided by science and data,” wrote Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott in the initial press release, “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.”
Scott himself announced on Friday that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
The announcement to go “conference-only” from Scott and the Pac-12 CEO Group noted that the conference would wait for “positive” health and safety indicators and permission from local and state health authorities before athletes begin mandatory athletic activities on campus. Stanford teams normally return for such practices in July in preparation for seasons that usually begin in August.
Traditionally, the pre-season games leading up to the conference play are against non-conference opponents and often include teams from across the country. However, Stanford can only compete against other Pac-12 foes this upcoming season, since travel outside of the region may prove difficult and potentially dangerous for the team and staff.
This decision will likely push back the start of many teams’ seasons, a change Scott and the Pac-12 hope will allow many health and safety indicators to begin to trend in a more positive direction since a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Scott stresses throughout the release that “health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports continues to be our number one priority.”
Under these new guidelines for the fall, Stanford football will kick off the season against Arizona on Sept. 12, one week later than the original opening day against William & Mary. The football team is currently the only Stanford team in its entirety partaking in voluntary workouts on campus.
Both Cardinal soccer teams will also be forced to shuffle their schedules. Women’s soccer, the reigning national champions, had planned to travel to Kentucky and Vanderbilt ,while the men’s soccer team had planned to host Maryland and Akron prior to Pac-12 play — but now those games must be canceled.
Originally expecting to head back to campus at the end of July to start training, women’s volleyball will also likely face significant rescheduling. This reduced competition and inability to face off against some of the nation’s top teams as intended could hinder the chance for the Cardinal team to defend its 2019 national championship, their third in the past four years.
Besides the Big Ten and Pac-12, the three other Power Five conferences — the Big 12, ACC and SEC — have yet to release any official statements regarding their schedule for the upcoming season.
Contact Lydia Chen at lydiac123554 ‘at’ gmail.com.