On Friday, the Pac-12 Conference unveiled its retooled 10-game, conference-only schedules for the 2020 season.
And, less than a day later, that season hit another potential snag.
A group of Pac-12 football players from multiple schools is threatening to opt out of both training camp and regular-season games if their demands are not met, according to a report from ESPN. A text message obtained by The Athletic revealed that the group’s goal is to “ensure safe play during the COVID-19 pandemic, fight racial injustice, secure economic rights and fair compensation, protect all sports and obtain long term health insurance.”
They plan to make a public announcement on Monday, via The Player’s Tribune and their individual social media platforms, according to the text. The ESPN report stated the announcement could come as early as Sunday.
Per ESPN, the group’s central issue is the fight against racial injustice. A Pac-12 staff member reportedly told ESPN the group could potentially include hundreds of players. The teams specifically listed in the report are Cal, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA. It’s unclear whether any Washington football players are currently connected with the group.
The Pac-12 reportedly told ESPN in a statement Saturday that it has yet to hear from the group.
As part of the Pac-12’s updated season schedule, programs are allowed to start 20 hours of mandatory activities as early as Monday and training camp may begin as early as Aug. 17. A UW spokesperson told The Times on Friday that it has yet to be determined whether the Huskies will commence mandatory activities Monday.
Despite the revised plans, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott acknowledged in a media webinar Friday that the continued COVID-19 pandemic could ultimately swallow the season altogether.
“I’ll approach the answer to that question with a lot of humility, and … I don’t know,” Scott said, when asked for his level of confidence that college football will be played. “I think we are all trying to take a step at a time. We are cautiously optimistic, sitting here today. But there are elements outside our control that are going to have a lot of influence on that question. What’s happening in our communities? What’s happening in our campuses?
“A lot of that has to do with mask-wearing, social distancing. What happens when thousands of students come back to our campus? None of us have the answer to that question.”
As coronavirus cases continue to surge in California and Arizona, University of Arizona quarterback Kevin Doyle became the first Pac-12 player to publicly opt out of the 2020 season Saturday. The redshirt sophomore signal caller said in a tweet that “the only thing I can do is listen to professionals and watch professionals and make decisions off of that information.” The Pac-12 has previously stated that any athletes who choose not to play this season for health and safety reasons will have their scholarship protected and will remain in good standing with their team.
Scott also contracted, and has since recovered from, COVID-19 last month.
As for the fight against racial injustice, the Pac-12 recently outlined a series of “initial steps” to promote social justice and combat racism. Those steps include the creation of a head of diversity and inclusion position within the conference; the formation of a social-justice and anti-racism advisory group comprised of athletics and academic leaders and athletes from all Pac-12 member institutions; and the launch of a series of athlete and coach anti-racism virtual forums.
It appears, for a portion of Pac-12 players, those efforts are underwhelming. And an already endangered 2020 season could collapse if the conference doesn’t adequately address its players’ concerns.