The Pac-12 Conference unanimously voted to postpone all sports competitions through the rest of the year, with an eye toward pushing fall sports like football to the spring. The announcement, which was unveiled during a Zoom call by Commissioner Larry Scott, came hours after the Big Ten Conference announced a similar decision.
Scott laid out the conference's decision in a press release on Tuesday afternoon, saying the communal spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus was still too rampant to risk players' health.
"We will continue to monitor the situation and when conditions change we will be ready to explore all options to play in the new calendar year," Scott's statement to the media read.
During the call, Scott discussed his desire for all fall athletes to maintain their current year of eligibility, while maintaining their scholarships as well. Scott addressed the realities of the virus, saying that holding events in a "bubble," where student-athletes are isolated from the rest of a given campus, was not realistic.
"This was an extremely difficult decision that we know will have impacts on our fans and student-athletes," Scott said.
University of Arizona Athletics Director Dave Heeke said he and his staff supported the decision.
This is an incredibly difficult outcome for the entire Wildcat Family of student-athletes, coaches, staff, alumni and supporters," Heeke said in a prepared statement. "I have a great deal of empathy for these student-athletes and the impact this will have on them personally. Representing our University, community and state in competition is the foundation of the mission of Arizona Athletics and the Wildcat Way. However, the endless hard work of our student-athletes, coaches and staff in preparation for Fall seasons is something we can all be proud of. The work of everyone who represents the Wildcat Way over the last five months has been an outstanding display of unity and resiliency."
Heeke said the Athletics Department would continue its reentry planning with other university departments.
University of Oregon President Michael Schill, who heads the Pac-12 CEO Group, which is made up of conference presidents and chancellors, said the ongoing uncertainty led to the cancelation.
"Our number one consideration all the way through was the health and safety of our student-athletes," Schill said. "Ever since this nightmare began about how we would approach this with intercollegiate athletics, we listened to all of the views and we determined that there’s just too many questions and uncertainty to feel comfortable beginning contact sports on-time."
Scott said the conference will continue to monitor the virus' spread, with an eye toward beginning competition whenever it's safe to do so. The conference's goal, according to Scott, is to push back the start of the winter sports season to early January, while playing football and other fall sports at an undetermined time in the spring.
"We feel a responsibility to try to give some of that responsibility and clarity. We want to give student-athletes time to plan," Scott said. "As soon as we feel comfortable and it feels safer and we feel more comfortable, we’re going to play."
That comfort level was not where it needed to be, especially given the travel and logistical demands of a given season, according to Dr. Doug Aukerman, who serves as the senior associate athletic director at Oregon State University.
"As we looked at traveling and making sure that we could stop the spread of coronavirus if a staff member or athlete got it, we felt that we had to shift to a mindset to not just stop spread, but to immediately remove anyone that has coronavirus right way," Aukerman said.