Pac-12 announces rapid COVID-19 testing partnership, says it's exploring timelines to start football season

Nick Bromberg
·3 min read

The Pac-12 announced a partnership with a testing company that allows schools to test their athletes daily for coronavirus. And those rapid tests could potentially lead to earlier start dates for football, basketball and other sports.

The conference said that it had partnered with Quidel for on-site rapid testing at each of its 12 member schools. The schools will be able to get test results back in 15 minutes.

“The agreement is a major step toward the safe return of sports competition in the Pac-12,” the statement said. “The arrangement with Quidel will provide for frequent testing with rapid results, which had been one of the key concerns in the prior decision by the Pac-12 to postpone sport competition. The testing will also significantly reduce the number of contact traces required and the breadth of contact tracing required, with the goal of relieving some of the burden on local health authorities, as a result of removing or significantly limiting the spread of infection through athletics activity. Any return to competition is subject to requisite approvals from public health officials.”

While the widespread use of rapid tests is a huge step toward football and basketball potentially being played before 2020 is up, the last line in the paragraph above is even more important. California, for example, isn’t allowing full practices for contact sports so the four Pac-12 teams in the state are currently unable to practice.

Without the ability for every team in the conference to practice, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said Thursday that there was no timeline for when the football season could begin, though he noted that people within the conference were exploring multiple start date scenarios.

Scott said that when the conference postponed its fall sports seasons in August and postponed all athletic competition to at least Jan. 1, 2021, the conference wasn’t expecting to have widespread rapid testing for its athletes available until November.

The early availability of the testing means that the conference could potentially start playing sports later this year. Scott said Thursday that he was “hopeful” that competition could begin before the end of the year. But — again — state and local regulations have to allow it. The decision to resume sports isn’t entirely up to the Pac-12.

“Some of this is still outside of our control in terms of public health authorities being comfortable with the kind of contact required for football practice, training camp, as you know we’ve been really clear and full and open and transparent that we need a full six weeks in the sport of football to feel safe and to mitigate the possibility of injuries,” Scott said.

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 06: Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott at the pre-game press conference before the Pac-12 Championship football game between the Oregon Ducks and the Utah Utes at Levi's Stadium on December 6, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. The Oregon Ducks won 37-15. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott's conference was the second Power Five conference to postpone its fall sports seasons. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Potential cooperation with the Big Ten?

Scott said he had been in frequent contact with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren. The Big Ten was the first Power Five conference to postpone its fall sports seasons and the Pac-12 announced its decision shortly after the Big Ten.

The two conferences annually play each other in the Rose Bowl and Scott left open the possibility that the conferences could work together regarding football start dates to keep bowl games between the Pac-12 and the Big Ten on the schedule.

“I’ve said to Kevin, a high priority for the Pac-12 would be trying to align our seasons in a way that not only for our student-athletes could we have a Pac-12 championship game and champion but it would be awesome to have our traditional postseason opportunities the Pac-12 and Big Ten have enjoyed with each other over many, many decades.”

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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