Dec 6, 2019; Santa Clara, CA, USA; General overall view of Pac-12 logo at midfield prior to the Pac-12 Conference championship game between the Oregon Ducks and the Utah Utes at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pac-12 to resume football in November with 7-game slate

The Pac-12 Conference announced Thursday that it will start its football season in early November and play a seven-game, conference-only slate.

The conference’s season will kick off Nov. 6 and the conference championship game will be held Dec. 18. Teams may begin practicing immediately, contingent on local public health approvals.

The Pac-12 said a schedule will be released in the coming days.

The conference announced in August that it was following the lead of the Big Ten and other conferences to put off fall sports out of safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pac-12 again follows the Big Ten in its decision to bring back football. The Big Ten will resume play on Oct. 24.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports remains our guiding light and No. 1 priority,” said Pac-12 CEO Group Chair and University of Oregon President Michael Schill. “Our CEO Group has taken a measured and thoughtful approach to today’s decision, including extensive consultation with stakeholders on the evolving information and data related to health and safety.”

The Pac-12 previously announced a deal with Quidel Corp. for a daily rapid-tests program.

“Our agreement with Quidel to provide daily rapid-results testing has been a game-changer in enabling us to move forward with confidence that we can create a safe environment for our student-athletes while giving them the opportunity to pursue their dreams,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. “At the same time, we will continue to monitor health conditions and data and be ready to adjust as required in the name of the health of all.”

The conference also announced that winter sports can go on as well, with basketball cleared to be part of the Nov. 25 start announced by the NCAA.

–Field Level Media

Sep 7, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Buffalo Bulls running back Kevin Marks (5) runs with the ball during the third quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Buffalo 45-13. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

MAC presidents discuss return to football, delay vote

The Mid-American Conference will continue to discuss the possibility of playing a fall football season, commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said Saturday.

His statement followed a virtual meeting of conference presidents, at which no vote was taken. School presidents voted Aug. 8 to call off all fall sports amid the continued threat of COVID-19.

“Return-to-play models in the sport of football were reviewed,” Steinbrecher said about the meeting. “No decisions were made and we will continue examination of this matter during a meeting next week.”

The Mid-American was the first FBS conference to either cancel or postpone fall sports, including football. The Big Ten and Pac-12 followed their move, but the Big Ten announced Wednesday that a nine-week football schedule will be played beginning in late October. The Pac-12 is also examining a return in time to compete in a fall season.

The Toledo Blade reported Thursday that the MAC could play a six- or eight-game fall season that would begin in late October and finish with a conference championship game at Ford Field in Detroit.

Part of the Pac-12’s growing confidence about a return to play is an agreement with a lab for daily, rapid testing. The MAC has not yet signed such a deal, nor is it known how the conference would pay for it.

Members of the MAC are Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois, Ohio, Toledo and Western Michigan.

–Field Level Media

Nov 30, 2019; Eugene, OR, USA; A young Oregon Ducks fan cheers for a t-shirt during the second half against the Oregon State Beavers at Autzen Stadium. The Oregon Ducks beat the Oregon State Beavers 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Pac-12 expected to OK fall season on Friday

A fall football season will be on the agenda when Pac-12 presidents and chancellors meet Friday afternoon, and they likely will give the go-ahead for teams to play earlier than expected.

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News said the leaders probably won’t emerge from the meeting with an announcement of a start date but rather their agreement for football games to be played this fall instead of the spring. Still, Wilner said, athletic directors in the conference prefer an Oct. 31 start date.

The Pac-12 announced in August that it was following the lead of the Big Ten and other conferences and would put off fall sports out of safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Big Ten announced a decision to begin the season in October. And this week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown gave approval for the six teams in their states — half of the conference — to begin 11-on-11 practice provided the schools’ coronavirus protocols meet local health guidelines.

The Oregonian reported Thursday that the initial decision by presidents and chancellors to postpone all conference sports competition until at least Jan. 1 came “after they saw a presentation that included erroneous statistics that overstated the prevalence of COVID-19 in several of the conference’s communities during the first week of August,” most glaringly in Los Angeles.

A member of the Pac-12’s medical advisory body said the statistics presented — even without the ones described as erroneous — still would have led the group to the same recommendation to delay the season.

“The data presented by the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee to the CEO Group was accurately sourced at the time,” Dr. Kim Harmon, associate team physician at the University of Washington, told The Oregonian. “To the extent that there were subsequent updates to the reported data by COVID Act Now, state or local dashboards, they would not have changed the overarching recommendation of the Medical Advisory Committee.”

The Pac-12 is addressing medical concerns, however. The conference announced on Sept. 3 a deal with Quidel Corp. that will allow for daily and rapid COVID-19 testing of athletes in “close-contact” sports. The testing apparatus is expected to be delivered to each campus by the end of September.

–Field Level Media

March 5, 2020; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees walks amongst the players during Notre Dame's first spring football practice at the Irish Athletics Center. Mandatory Credit: Santiago Flores/South Bend Tribune via USA TODAY NETWORK

Notre Dame cancels practice; five positives, six more quarantined

Notre Dame canceled Thursday’s football practice after five players tested positive for COVID-19 and six more were quarantined due to exposure.

The Fighting Irish program plans to test players again Friday, the school said, but will not allow workouts or team-related gatherings until further notice. Any clearance for football to resume will come from the school’s medical staff.

Earlier in the week, Notre Dame announced classes for students would shift exclusively to remote learning environments and not take place on campus in South Bend, Ind.

Notre Dame said it has administered a total of 851 coronavirus tests to players and staff on the football team. In all, there have been nine positives. Of the nine positives, two were from initial reporting.

–Field Level Media

March 5, 2020; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees walks amongst the players during Notre Dame's first spring football practice at the Irish Athletics Center. Mandatory Credit: Santiago Flores/South Bend Tribune via USA TODAY NETWORK

Notre Dame cancels practice; five positives, six more quarantined

Notre Dame canceled Thursday’s football practice after five players tested positive for COVID-19 and six more were quarantined due to exposure.

The Fighting Irish program plans to test players again Friday, the school said, but will not allow workouts or team-related gatherings until further notice. Any clearance for football to resume will come from the school’s medical staff.

Earlier in the week, Notre Dame announced classes for students would shift exclusively to remote learning environments and not take place on campus in South Bend, Ind.

Notre Dame said it has administered a total of 851 coronavirus tests to players and staff on the football team. In all, there have been nine positives. Of the nine positives, two were from initial reporting.

–Field Level Media

Oct 27, 2018; East Hartford, CT, USA; Massachusetts Minutemen running back Marquis Young (8) runs the ball against the Connecticut Huskies in the second half at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. UMass defeated UConn 22-17. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

UMass cancels football season

The University of Massachusetts canceled its football season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the school announced Tuesday.

UMass is an FBS independent.

“The continuing challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic posed too great of a risk, and we reached the conclusion that attempting to play a season would not have placed the members of our program in the safest situation possible,” Minutemen athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement.

UMass players were informed of the decision Tuesday morning.

“I am absolutely heartbroken for our players, our former players, our alumni and our UMass Football community,” UMass coach Walt Bell said in a statement. “Our job as coaches and mentors is to provide opportunities for our players, and do everything in our power to not take them away. Today’s news was devastating, but we will be resilient and prepared to be our best when our best is required.”

UMass joins UConn as the second FBS independent to cancel its season. The Mid-American and Mountain West conferences have canceled their seasons as well.

–Field Level Media

Sep 21, 2019; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Old Dominion Monarchs quarterback Stone Smartt (4) scrambles from Virginia Cavaliers defensive tackle Aaron Faumui (94) in the third quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Old Dominion breaks with C-USA, calls off football season

Old Dominion canceled its fall athletic season on Monday, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

“We concluded that the season — including travel and competition — posed too great a risk for our student-athletes,” President John R. Broderick said in a university statement. “I know many on and off campus will be disappointed, but we must prioritize the health and safety of our student-athletes, as well as our coaches, staff and fans.”

Old Dominion’s football team becomes the 14th FBS program to announce it won’t play this fall, joining Connecticut and the 12 members of the Mid-American Conference.

The Monarchs are a member of Conference USA, which on Friday announced its board of directors approved a football schedule as well as return-to-play protocols. The first conference game is set for Sept. 12, and schools were given the option to add as many as four nonleague games.

Old Dominion was scheduled to open the season Sept. 4 at Wake Forest.

Conference USA officials didn’t immediately comment Monday on Old Dominion’s move.

But Old Dominion is opting out.

“This is just the right thing to do for everyone involved,” athletic director Wood Selig said. “After making this decision, I already feel a sense of relief.

“We’re not like the NBA. We can’t put our athletes and coaches and fans in a bubble, and we don’t have unlimited resources.”

Selig said he hopes fall sports can be played in the spring, “but first and foremost it has to be safe for everyone involved and would also require NCAA approval.”

First-year football coach Ricky Rahne said he accepts the cancellation of the season.

“My heart aches for our student-athletes,” Rahne said in a statement posted to Twitter. “From the moment our staff was hired, this group of players has been fully invested. I know how diligent each of them has worked in order to have a successful fall season. However, their health and safety is at the utmost importance, and I support the decision.”

He continued: “I am eager to continue to provide an atmosphere of development and a positive student-athlete experience for each of our players.”

The 40-year-old Rahne, most recently Penn State’s offensive coordinator, replaced Bobby Wilder, who resigned in December following a 1-11 season.

–Field Level Media

Nov 23, 2018; Pullman, WA, USA; This years Apple Cup logo is seen at Martin Stadium before a game between the Washington State Cougars and Washington State Cougars. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Pac-12 readying loan program for schools

The Pac-12 is putting together a loan program that could reach nearly $1 billion to help member universities should the football season not be played because of the coronavirus, The (San Jose) Mercury News reported Wednesday.

Citing internal documents and conference sources, the newspaper said each school would be allowed to borrow up to $83 million, to be paid back at an interest rate of 3.75 percent over a 10-year span.

Should each of the 12 schools take the maximum — which the report said was not expected — the bill could total $996 million. Among the universities, Stanford and Southern California are private, with the others all state-backed schools.

The Mercury News report said football generates more than $50 million each year for each campus. At Utah, for example, football brought in $66 million in revenues in the 2019 fiscal year, which represented about two-thirds of athletic revenues, per the report.

The Pac-12 announced last month it will play a conference-only schedule in all fall sports to limit travel and have greater control of protocols related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, despite that precaution, there is doubt as to whether the season can be played.

Half of the member schools are in California and Arizona, states that have seen a large summer spike in COVID-19 cases. Los Angeles County, where USC and UCLA are located, leads the nation in confirmed cases since the pandemic began with more than 195,000, according to data from the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.

–Field Level Media

Sep 1, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; A detailed view of the Big Ten logo on the field prior to the game between the Appalachian State Mountaineers and the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten releases schedule with added flexibility

The Big Ten on Wednesday released a revised football schedule with added flexibility in hopes of playing the full 10-game, conference-only slate in 2020.

The regular season opens on Sept. 3 and runs through Nov. 21, with the league championship game scheduled for Dec. 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Each team has two open weeks. Also, the entire conference has an open date on Nov. 28, allowing for the ability to shift games from Weeks 1 and 2 to later in the season if necessary due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The Big Ten title game also can be pushed back as late as Dec. 19.

The season kicks off with Ohio State playing at Illinois on Thursday, Sept. 3.

Key dates include Michigan playing at rival Ohio State on Oct. 24, instead of the traditional Thanksgiving weekend.

The Big Ten also announced that its medical protocols will include twice-weekly coronavirus testing using a third-party lab to maintain “consistency in surveillance and pre-competition testing.”

–Field Level Media

NFL Conference Championship Weekend: Over and Under Bets

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we’re making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we’re offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week.

Over and Under Best Bets

Take the over: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs

Total: 56.5

The Chiefs remain vulnerable against the run. The Colts averaged 6.2 yards per rush against them but weren’t able to establish the run consistently due to the score.

Meanwhile, the Patriots have really discovered a strong running game thanks to the emergence of Sony Michel. Look for them to keep it on the ground and set things up for the passing game to take advantage of a secondary that is also beatable.

You know Tom Brady will get some shots in, and there’s little doubt Patrick Mahomes will do the same. New England’s run defense is also vulnerable — only the Rams surrendered more yards per carry than the Pats and Chiefs this season — and Damien Williams and Spencer Ware should have plenty of success setting up the passing game. Kansas City could also get a shot in the arm from the return of injured guardĀ Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

These teams combined for 83 points in their first meeting, and this should be another track meet. After initial weather concerns, the latest forecast indicates this game won’t be played in sub-zero temperatures after all, and I think both teams will have just enough in them on offense to push this one into the 60s.

Predicted score: Chiefs 34, Patriots 28

Take the under: Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints

Total: 56

Dating back to Week 13, the Saints have averaged fewer than 20 points per game. And while they scored 45 points the last time they faced Los Angeles, Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is too smart to let that happen again. Look for Aqib Talib — who didn’t play in that first meeting — to do a better job against productive star Saints receiver Michael Thomas, and don’t be surprised if underrated Rams linebacker Cory Littleton limits Alvin Kamara’s damage.

That could make life real tough against a defensive front featuring defensive player of the year shoo-in Aaron Donald as well asĀ Ndamukong Suh, who looks inspired thus far in January.

And while the Rams also scored 35 points in that Week 9 meeting, that offense has also been less stable and consistent without Cooper Kupp down the stretch.

The Saints defense is certainly beatable, but keep in mind that New Orleans completely shut down the Eagles for three and a half quarters on Sunday and has surrendered 17 or fewer points in seven of its last nine games.

Not even sure this one will hit 50.

Predicted score: Rams 24, Saints 23

Good luck, we’re all counting on you.

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