Pac-12 now will allow teams to schedule non-conference games during 2020 season

Pac-12 schools are now allowed to schedule non-conference football games during the 2020 season.

The conference announced the move Thursday after the proposal was approved by the Pac-12’s CEO Group, which is made up of the league’s 12 presidents and chancellors.

The move comes as several Pac-12 programs have dealt with COVID-19 outbreaks, leading to the cancellation of games. Arizona State is set to miss its second straight game, this time against Colorado. Meanwhile, Utah has yet to play a game, though the Utes are reportedly on track to play USC on Saturday. Cal also missed its opener against Washington due to contact tracing and restrictions in Berkeley.

Last week, the Pac-12 hastily arranged a Sunday morning game between Cal and UCLA after both team’s had their previously-scheduled games get canceled. UCLA won 34-10.

“The Pac-12 is committed to maintaining maximum flexibility to provide our football student-athletes with an opportunity to compete, while continuing to ensure that health and safety remains our number one priority,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 14:  A high angle view of the Pac-12 logo on the field at Stanford Stadium during a game between the Stanford Cardinal and the Colorado Buffaloes played on November 14, 2020 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
Pac-12 teams are now allowed to schedule non-conference football games during the 2020 season. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)

Pac-12 sets criteria for non-conference games

There is a set of criteria that must be met in order for a non-conference game to be officially added to a Pac-12 team’s schedule.

First, the non-conference opponent “must adhere to all Pac-12 testing and related protocols” for COVID-19. Next, the non-conference game will “in all cases be a home game for the Pac-12 team” and be “broadcast by a Pac-12 television partner.” And if a Pac-12 opponent becomes available during the week — “by the end of day Thursday in any given week” — the conference game takes precedent and “must be played in lieu of any non-conference game.”

Despite the change, Colorado said it will not pursue a non-conference opponent this week after the Arizona State game was canceled.

"We are waiting out the day to make sure the other five Pac-12 games that are scheduled will go forth with no COVID issues and we would not be matched in a conference game. That being said, even though the conference has approved non-conference opponents if one can be found that satisfies the testing protocols the Pac-12 has in place for its members, we will not play a non-conference opponent this weekend,” Colorado AD Rick George said in a statement.

“However, in the future if a similar instance arises, it would give us more time to prepare, but for now, we want to concentrate on game preparations for the USC game next Saturday in Los Angeles.”

Could Pac-12 decision help BYU?

The Pac-12 began play on Nov. 7, the latest of any of the Power Five conferences, in a conference-only format with a seven-game schedule. Six games — two for each Cal, Arizona State and Utah — have already been canceled.

With the change announced Thursday, teams left without a game because of their original opponent’s virus issues will be able to quickly pivot. The move from the Pac-12 could be a boon for an independent program like No. 8 BYU that is undefeated but has just two games, North Alabama and San Diego State, remaining on its schedule.

BYU said in a statement Thursday afternoon that it was “open to exploring options” for more games to add to its schedule.

Other Group of Five programs looking to boost their resumes could be interested in playing Pac-12 programs, too. Marshall, currently 7-0 and ranked No. 15 in the nation, comes to mind. The Thundering Herd have lost four games due to COVID-19 issues with their opponents. Two of those games, Rice and Florida International, have been rescheduled in December, however.

These programs must meet the Pac-12 testing protocols for any of these hypothetical matchups to come to fruition. Pac-12 schools conduct daily antigen testing and weekly PCR testing.

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