Dec 12, 2020; Pasadena, California, USA; Southern California Trojans head coach Clay Helton watches from the sidelines wearing a face mask in the first half against the UCLA Bruins at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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USC latest Pac-12 team to pass on bowl season

Southern California became the latest college football team to opt out of the upcoming bowl season in a decision that came following a recommendation from the program’s medical staff.

A number of Pac-12 Conference teams already have opted out of potential bowl games, citing concerns over the growing COVID-19 pandemic. The state of California currently has strict stay-at-home orders in place.

Players, coaches and athletic director Mike Bohn also participated in the decision to take a pass on an upcoming bowl game, the school announced. The USC men’s basketball program already is in a 14-day quarantine because of a positive COVID-19 test.

“They did everything we asked of them to abide by the challenging guidelines they had to follow to stay safe and well, whether it was daily testing or keeping distant from family and friends or training in less-than-ideal ways,” USC head coach Clay Helton said in a statement. “It has not been easy, and it is hard for anyone outside the program to understand how immensely difficult these past few months have been for them.”

USC was 5-0 during the pandemic-shortened season before falling to Oregon 31-24 in Friday night’s Pac-12 Conference championship game at Los Angeles. The Trojans were No. 13 in the College Football Playoff rankings and weren’t likely to have earned a top-four spot even if they won Friday’s game.

“We are a student-athlete-centered athletics program; thus we fully support the decision to opt out of a bowl game this year,” Bohn said in a statement. “The physical and mental health and the safety of our student-athletes is paramount, and this season has been unimaginably taxing on our players in particular. This will allow them to be with their families who they haven’t seen for a long time and begin preparing for their spring semester academics.”

Utah and Washington announced Friday they would not accept bowl-game bids. Washington’s COVID-19 issues forced it out of the Pac-12 championship game, giving Oregon its chance to face USC on Friday.

Multiple programs have referenced the strict isolation rules that have been in place for athletes since the summer as one reason for deciding to pass on one more football game.

Stanford, UCLA and Washington State had already announced they would skip out on bowl season even if they qualified for an extra game.

-Field Level Media

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