Fall sports turn to conference comfort

Washington State linebacker Jahad Woods (13) leads the celebration in front of the Cougar fans cheering in the Crimzone after his fourth-quarter interception during a Pac-12 Conference game against Stanford at Martin Stadium in Pullman on Nov. 15. The Pac-12 will only be playing conference games this season because of the coronavirus.

About an hour before the Big Ten announced the cancellation of nonconference games in all fall sports Thursday because of the coronavirus pandemic, the move was anticipated via Twitter by a reporter for The Athletic.

Later in the day, she tweeted the Pac-12 is expected to soon follow suit.

“Multiple industry insiders tell The Athletic that they expect the Pac-12 to go to conference-only scheduling as well in the coming days,” Nicole Auerbach wrote.

If she’s correct a second time, Washington State would say goodbye to scheduled football games at Utah State on Sept. 3 and at home against Houston and Idaho on Sept. 12 and 19.

The conference said no decision has been made.

“The Pac-12 has not yet made a determination on fall sports,” it said in a statement. “The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports is our number one priority, and we have been working closely with our Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Board and campus leadership over the past months to help guide our decision making.”

The Big Ten decision certainly will have some type of ripple effect for the Pac-12, if only because it wipes out Michigan’s game at Washington on Sept. 5 and Ohio State’s contest at Oregon on Sept. 12.

A conference-only schedule has been among the many ideas discussed by college officials as they try to envision a fall sports season that keeps people safe from the pandemic, which has seen a recent resurgence as states have relaxed restrictions on social distancing to varying degrees.

It still appears possible some or all major conferences will cancel fall sports altogether, a move made by the Ivy League of the FCS level Wednesday.

Washington State’s first scheduled Pac-12 football game is at Oregon State on Sept. 26.

Cougar fall-sport athletes have been allowed to participate in voluntary workouts on campus for about a month now, and the football team is scheduled to begin mandatory conditioning and weight-training Saturday. On July 22, the Cougars are set to begin a two-week phase in which football walk-throughs are allowed for 20 hours per week.

In their original reopening plan announced in June, the Cougs would have begun preseason football workouts in early August. It’s unclear how that timetable would be affected by the cancellation of nonconference games.

If the Cougars were forced to scrap their game with the rival Vandals, Idaho would be missing out on a $550,000 payday.

Dale Grummert may be contacted at daleg@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2290.

Recommended for you