BOULDER, Colo. — The fall will be without college football in Colorado.
The Pac-12 Conference on Tuesday announced its plans to postpone all sports through the end of the year, ending CU Boulder's football season before it begins. The decision will also affect the beginning of the basketball season, along with all other sports planned to play before the end of the year.
The conference, in a news release, said it will consider a return to competition after Jan. 1.
"This was an extremely difficult, painful decision," Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in the news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Scott said the decision was unanimous among the Pac-12 member schools.
Dr. Doug Aukerman, the associate athletic director for sports medicine at Oregon State University, said the conference weighed several medical seasons in postponing fall sports, including: The spread of COVID-19 in Pac-12 communities, the short- and long-term affects of COVID-19 and the unknowns about both, and the inability to "bubble" athletes to restrict the spread of COVID-19.
In a document outlining the medical assessment from the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Health and Well-being Initiative, the board concluded that "many of its current [health and safety] recommendations cannot be achieved consistently across all universities at this point in time."
"Currently, the availability of frequent, FDA-approved, accurate testing with rapid turn-around time vary at each of the Pac-12 institution locations," the board's assessment said. "In addition, in many locations within the Conference, community test positivity rates and number of cases per 100,000 in the surrounding community exceed levels which infectious disease and public health officials deem safe for group sports."
The board said it anticipated over the next few months that more rapid tests would be available and "we will have a greater understanding of potential short- and long-term health effects of COVID-19 to better inform medical decision-making."
“Ultimately, our decision was guided by science and a deep commitment to the health and welfare of student-athletes," Michael H. Schill, president of the University of Oregon, said in the release. "We certainly hope that the Pac-12 will be able to return to competition in the New Year.”
Student-athletes will continue to receive their scholarships amid the shutdown and will be able to continue the permitted 20 hours of practice or workouts each week.
The Pac-12 joined the Big Ten on Tuesday in postponing fall football amid continued concerns over COVID-19.
"The science and the medicine says we can not allow you to go forward, so we won't," Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said.
Anderson was asked if the conference considered allowing players to sign a waiver, releasing universities from liability.
"It's not an option because our responsibilities are not about liabilities," Anderson said. "Our responsibility is about accountability to these student-athletes and their families, short- and long-term. So we can't waive our duties and obligations to protect them, driven by the science and medicine. We're not driven by lawyers who will say, 'Well, we'll relieve you of liability.'" That's not what floats the boat in this conference."
Scott said all sports could resume competition as early as January, though other factors — such as football playing a spring 2021 season and then a playing a normal season in the fall, later that same year — would have to be taken into consideration as the conference plans a return to sports.
At CU, the move from the conference means that football, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball have been suspended.
Additionally, the university said, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s golf and women’s tennis – which all have seasons that cross over into the new year – will be affected.
“The decision to postpone the fall sports seasons and to delay the start of the winter ones was not made in haste – but in light of current virus trends and the long term health impacts of COVID-19 remaining unknown, this was determined to be the best course of action for the health and safety of our student-athletes,” said Athletic Director Rick George. “That has always been and will remain our top priority. We are hopeful that the situation reaches a point where we can have our winter sports start at the first of the year, and perhaps play a modified fall sports schedule in the spring.”
The Mountain West Conference, which includes Colorado State, postponed its fall season on Monday.
The Pac-12 had previously planned on playing a conference-only schedule and released a revised schedule last week. But over the weekend, college presidents and conference commissioners convened across the country as concerns rose over how football would be played amid COVID-19.
The Atlantic Coast Conference, the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 Conference have yet to change their plans from a conference-only schedule, though presidents and other officials from those conferences were reportedly meeting this week as well.