The Pac-12 will re-evaluate its decision to postpone the basketball season until 2021 if favorable circumstances unfold inside NCAA headquarters and on the campuses, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the conference’s plans.
The presidents and chancellors surprised many industry officials — and their own head coaches — by combining a decision on the basketball calendar with their Aug. 11 vote to shut down football and other fall sports until Jan. 1 (at the earliest) because of coronavirus concerns.
The Pac-12 and Ivy League are the only conferences to have formally pushed basketball into next year.
Others are expected to follow in coming weeks, but the length of postponements across major college basketball will depend, to a large extent, on decisions made at the national level.
CBS Sports reported earlier this week that the NCAA is mulling four start dates for the regular season — all of them in 2020.
“If the (start) is moved closer to January, we would re-evaluate,” said a source familiar with the presidents’ thinking.
The latest of the four under consideration, Dec. 4, would constitute a three-week delay from the originally-scheduled start but come one month earlier than the Pac-12’s planned return to competition.
Key NCAA committees are expected to decide on a recommended calendar in time for the Division I Council to vote on the issue on Sept. 16, according to CBS.
The Pac-12 is tentatively planning on a season that would begin in January and could feature weekend pods, by which two sets of travel partners converge at a single site for multiple games.
“A lot of us are waiting to see how that meeting goes,” a conference source said of the D1 Council gathering.
“It’s really significant for what we do going forward.”
Any re-assessment by the presidents, multiple sources stressed, would depend entirely on changes in Covid-19 conditions on the front lines.
Specifically, the conference wants evidence of a reduction in community spread and advances in testing that would guarantee same-day results for the campuses.
The medical team believes athletes must be tested within 24 hours of competition to ensure no asymptomatic players are on the court.
However, the PCR tests currently in use have a turnaround time of 24-to-36 hours because they must be sent to laboratories.
Antigen tests, which produce results in one hour, aren’t readily available for the athletic departments, but there is hope of rapid progress on that front.. in that realm.
The FDA on Wednesday issued emergency-use authorization to Abbott Lab’s for an antigen test that produces results in 15 minutes.
Abbott hopes to have 50 million tests available per month — at $5 per test — by October.
That’s probably not enough to satisfy the needs of Pac-12 athletic departments, which would not be high on the priority list for such a valuable resource.
But it seemingly creates the potential for marketplace supply to reach necessary levels for the conference by November or December.
The other requirement laid out by the Pac-12 medical team — a reduction in community spread — is seemingly attainable based on the latest positivity rates in states across the conference.
The presidents would undoubtedly consider the academic calendar when selecting a revised start date, a source said, making the middle weekends of December potential re-start windows.
Most schools will have completed final exams by Dec. 12-13, and all will be done by Dec. 19-20.
However, the Pac-12 basketball working group, which includes head coaches, settled this summer on a six-week ramp-up period before competition can begin: two weeks for strength-and-conditioning workouts, followed by four weeks of practice.
In order for the conference to begin competition in the first half of December, teams must begin workouts in early November.
In other words, the window needed for improvements in community spread and rapid-result testing isn’t as wide as it might seem.
But for the moment, it appears to be open.