USC’s football players would like the state of California to lift its restrictions that are preventing schools in the state from practicing.
In a letter posted to social media Tuesday afternoon, the players urge Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow them to play. While NFL teams in the state can practice and play because of their daily coronavirus testing protocols, the four Pac-12 teams in California can’t practice. That restriction, along with a similar restriction in Oregon, means that the Pac-12 can’t realistically talk about its plans for its postponed 2020 season until all of its teams are allowed to practice.
“As we watched the NFL kick off over the weekend and our fellow college football players compete the past few weeks, it left us wondering why we can’t join them,” the letter says. “Though it may have been misconstrued, the Pac-12 players’ #WeAreUnited movement did not reflect any desire not to play this fall. Instead, we simply wanted to ensure that health and safety would be at the forefront of our conference’s planning. The movement helped us secure some important commitments from the conference, such as guaranteed scholarships for those who choose to opt-out of the season. We believe players in the Pac-12 want to play football as soon as possible.”
“The current reality is that there are too many restrictions imposed by state and local public health officials in California that prevent us from resuming practices and competitions. We cannot practice in groups larger than 12, we cannot gather as a team and we cannot utilize any of our indoor facilities. From the onset of this pandemic, the Pac-12 has rightfully and responsibly maintained that their decisions would be based on science, and it now appears that the science and technology have turned in favor of playing.”
After the USC letter, other Pac-12 players urged the conference to push forward with plans to play.
Dear @pac12, I ask if you guys can give us players an option to opt in or out. Display the risk of us playing this season and let us agree upon it. For you guys to take something away from me that I love so dearly it hurts and I had no option but listen. #WeWantToPlay— MJP (@MycahPittman) September 15, 2020
The Pac-12 player movement referenced in the letter formed at the beginning of August. The players wanted the conference to address issues of COVID-19 safety, racial injustice and fair athlete compensation as it was then-unknown what the conference would do in regards to a 2020 football season.
The conference’s rapid testing deal
The Pac-12 announced on Sept. 3 that it had secured a deal with a company to provide rapid test kits to each school in the conference. In announcing the deal, the conference said that it thought that widespread rapid testing wouldn’t be available until November when it announced in August that it would be postponing all sports until Jan. 1, 2021.
And while the conference said that the rapid testing deal made an earlier return to sports possible, it also made clear that governmental restrictions prohibiting half its members from practicing and preparing for a season made it impossible to say when a season would start.
The rapid testing deal could mean that those myriad government limits would be lifted sooner rather than later. As the San Jose Mercury-News pointed out on Monday, the efficiency and efficacy of the rapid tests all schools in the conference will have access to could be a way for the conference to prove to local and state officials that its teams can practice safely like NFL teams in the state of California can.
As of now, the conference is reportedly looking at a football season that begins sometime in November. That season start would, of course, hinge on those restrictions being lifted at some point in the near future and teams in the conference getting six weeks of preseason preparation.
That’s why the Pac-12 isn’t on the same timeline to start the football season as the Big Ten seemingly is. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said earlier this month that he would love for the football seasons in the two conferences to sync up. But if the Big Ten gets its season started in roughly a month as has been rumored, it will be on a different schedule than the Pac-12.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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