There has been much confusion about what the California teams are or aren’t allowed to do with regard to competing under state health restrictions.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said in his news conference today that, “There is nothing in the state guidelines that denies the Pac-12 from having conference games” and he called any reporting to the contrary a “misrepresentation of the facts.”

That’s true, a health department official confirmed to the Hotline after the news conference.

Analysis: With the Big Ten restarting football, the Pac-12 must do whatever it takes to play this fall

(I had initially reached out to the health department last week.)

Technically, he said, the state allows games to be played at the intercollegiate level: Full-squad, full-contact 22-man games.


The problem — and it’s a super-colossal problem — is with practice.

According to Section 5 of the guidelines:

“IHEs (institutions of higher education) should establish cohorts as a strategy to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. A cohort may be composed of six to 12 individuals, all members of the same team, who consistently work out and participate in activities together.”

You may ask: How can a football team practice without at least 22 players on the field?

Well, I asked that very question of the official, who did not want to be quoted but was willing to explain the state’s rules.

The answer was this:

Teams can find work-arounds to 11-on-11 practices.

They can have walk-throughs, he suggested. They can practice against air. They can use Virtual Reality and tackle dummies. They can use mental exercises.

Those are all means by which teams can conduct a practice and prepare for a game, he said.


I responded that at some point during the season, during a game week, a football team needed 22 players on the field, offense against defense, 11 against 11, with some degree of contact.

The official responded that teams could prepare by playing five against five.

And that contact is allowed, just within the fixed group of players.

I repeated my opinion that the rules didn’t seem practical for a major college football team — that at some point, teams had to have 22 players on the field at once, with tackling.

Otherwise, I added, the players would not be properly prepared for the games.

The official added that it was less than ideal but not an obstacle that couldn’t be overcome.

Then he reiterated that the guidelines were set to prevent Covid-19 spread while, at the same time, creating a means of permitting practice.

And, of course, games are allowed.

So that’s it. That’s the explanation.

The California teams can practice, but they have to do it five-on-five.

Or against air.

Or with VR.

Just not 11 on 11.