The Pac-12 Conference completed the full return of Power Five college football in the fall on Thursday in announcing it would play a seven-game season beginning on Nov. 6, reversing a previous decision to postpone sports competition until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports remains our guiding light and number one priority,” stated Pac-12 CEO Group chair and University of Oregon president Michael Schill in a release announcing the return of football and plans for other sports. “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 announcement could help stop the flow on what has been a steady stream of top players in the league to opt out to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. Oregon OT Penei Sewell, Oregon DB Thomas Graham, Oregon DB Deommodore Lenoir, USC OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, Stanford OT Walker Little, Cal DB Camryn Bynum, USC DL Jay Tufele and Washington edge rusher Joe Tryon have announced opt outs. Opt-out players can attempt to opt back into the college season, although that proposition would require NCAA reinstatement for those that already have entered into an agreement with or accepted benefits from an agent.
NCAA bylaw 12.3.1 rules players ineligible whether their agreement to be represented by an agent is oral or written, and bylaw 184.108.40.206 prohibits receiving benefits (gifts, cash, loans, etc.) from a prospective agent.
Playing a fall schedule is a crucial consideration for draft prospects who otherwise faced potential scheduling conflicts with the NFL Scouting Combine, which typically begins in late February, and the prospect of being inadequately trained for either the combine or pro day events, most of which are held in March.
The Pac-12’s move comes eight days after the Big Ten Conference did the same in bringing back fall football starting Oct. 23-24. The two leagues are just six weeks removed from a decision to shut down fall sports, while the other three Power Five conferences (SEC, ACC, Big 12) have remained steadfast to play in the fall, but with adjusted schedules. The ACC and Big 12 seasons are underway, while the SEC will kick off this weekend. Rescheduling for the fall was a more tricky proposition for the Pac-12 than the Big Ten, as Pac-12 schools located in California and Oregon — home to half the league’s teams — had been awaiting clarity from state and local governments on whether they were allowed to resume normal practices.