The Pac-12 has become the second major conference to shift to a conference-only fall schedule amid growing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement came after a meeting of the Pac-12 CEO Group on Friday, a day after the Big Ten opted to eliminate nonconference games for all fall sports.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports continues to be our No. 1 priority,” 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 Atlantic Coast, Big 12 and Southeastern conferences are still weighing options for fall sports. On Wednesday, the Ivy League became the first Division I conference to suspend all fall sports until at least January, leaving open the possibility of moving some sports to the spring if the pandemic is under better control.
The Pac-12’s decision covers football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball. Conference-only schedules will be announced no later than July 31.
The conference is also delaying the start of mandatory athletic activities until a series of health and safety indicators become more positive. Student-athletes who choose not to participate in the next academic year due to COVID-19 concerns will continue to have their scholarships honored and will remain in good standing with their teams.
The college sports world has been put on hold since the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the lucrative NCAA basketball tournaments and all spring sports. Athletes recently began returning to campuses for voluntary workouts, but many schools have scaled back as more than a dozen schools have reported positive COVID-19 tests among athletes in the past month.
Schools also have faced massive budget shortfalls in the wake of the pandemic.
The NCAA shorted its member schools $375 million in scheduled payouts due to the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament and schools across the country have been hit with massive budget shortfalls as college sports remain on hold.
Stanford eliminated 11 of its 36 varsity sports this week and at least 171 four-year schools have eliminated sports during the pandemic.
“Arizona State University and Sun Devil Athletics support the Pac-12’s announcement of a strictly conference schedule for the 2020 football and fall sports seasons,” Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said in a statement. “We will continue to seek the guidance and input from medical and infectious disease experts, as well as our local and campus health officials and doctors as we evaluate this ever-changing landscape.”
A shift to conference-only schedules will likely have a ripple across the college sports landscape.
Smaller schools that rely on revenue from guarantee football games against Power Five schools could be shorted millions of dollars.
Non-Power Five schools receive hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than $1 million from guarantee games to fund their athletic departments. Guarantee-game revenue can account for more than 5% of a school’s overall athletic budget.