It’s official.

Kind of.

On Saturday evening, the Pac-12 announced that North Division champion Washington will meet South Division champion USC in its conference title game at 5 p.m. on Friday. The game will be played at the Los Angeles Coliseum and be broadcast on FOX.

Yes, it deserves an asterisk. But even without rivalry games or road games, UW’s 2020 season has still meant something.

“In a football season that has thrown unprecedented challenges and adversity at our football teams and student-athletes, USC and Washington have performed at the highest levels and earned their places in the 2020 Pac-12 Football Championship Game as the Pac-12 South and North Champions,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. 

Washington (3-1) won the North by virtue of owning the division’s best winning percentage (.750), despite having to cancel Saturday’s rivalry game at Oregon (3-2) because of a spike of positive COVID-19 cases and subsequent contact tracing within the Huskies’ program. According to a source, UW fell “well below” the Pac-12’s designated minimum of 53 available scholarship players. The conference also requires a scholarship minimum of one quarterback, seven offensive linemen and four defensive linemen for a team to play.

It remains unclear whether UW will be cleared to participate in Friday’s Pac-12 championship game, and Saturday’s conference release did not include any contingency plans. King County Public Health and UW jointly enforce a 14-day quarantine for close contacts following a suspected exposure, which would make it impossible for any close contacts who entered quarantine last week to return by Friday.

And until Saturday, it was not guaranteed that the Pac-12 North champions would qualify to participate in the conference title game at all. Pac-12 policy states that, “in the event that the average number of conference games falls to 4 or below, the two teams with the best winning percentage (both divisional and cross-divisional) within the conference will participate in the Pac- 12 Football Championship Game (regardless of division affiliation).”


If a third conference game — following UW-Oregon and Washington State-Cal — had been canceled this week, the teams with the two best winning percentages (USC and either UW or Colorado) would have qualified for Friday’s game regardless of division affiliation. But ultimately, enough games were played not to trigger that clause.

Per a report from ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura, if UW is unable to play in the conference title game, second-place Oregon would take its place. And if USC is unable to play, Colorado would play.

UW has had an additional two games canceled due to COVID-19 issues tied to its opponents, Cal and WSU. After the Apple Cup on Nov. 27 was canceled, the Huskies defeated Utah in a replacement game, 24-21.

On Wednesday, UW reported 11 active positive COVID-19 within its athletics department — six more than a week ago. However, a source also indicated not all 11 cases can be traced to the football program. It’s university policy not to specify how many cases are tied to each team.

Since UW athletes began returning to practice on June 15, 559 athletes have received a total of 5,950 PCR tests — with 64 positive cases (1.07%).  

Officially, Washington has won the Pac-12 North. But it’s too early to tell whether that accomplishment will yield an appearance in the Pac-12 championship game.