Football at USC, UCLA closer to a return as talks move forward on COVID-19 protocols

Progress is being made in talks to let Pac-12 football, including USC and UCLA, resume practice and eventually games this fall.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Football at UCLA and USC is getting a little closer to returning to the field.

The ACC, Big 12, SEC and, now the Big Ten are playing this fall. The Pac-12 remains on the sidelines for now because of coronavirus concerns in California and Oregon, but discussions are underway which could change that.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday the state's COVID-19 restrictions do not necessarily prevent the California teams from taking the field.

"There's nothing in the state guidelines that denies the Pac-12 from having conference games," Newsom said. "There's nothing in our guidelines the state put out that denies these games from occurring."

He said he spoke to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott about that subject earlier Wednesday and he is committed to working with the conference and with the NCAA to keeping students and the campus community safe while considering the return of collegiate sports.

Additionally, the athletic directors at USC and UCLA held a Zoom call with Los Angeles County health officials on Wednesday to make progress on allowing the football teams to begin practicing, sources told Eyewitness News. The feedback was described as positive.

Half of the schools in the Pac-12 have been unable to ramp up preparation for the season because of restrictions put in place by state and local authorities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Later Wednesday, the Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott announced a breakthrough with the California and Oregon governors that was helped along by the conference's plans to soon begin testing athletes daily for the virus.

"The Pac-12 welcomes today's statements by Governor Newsom of California and Governor Brown of Oregon that state public health officials will allow for contact practice and return to competition, and that there are no state restrictions on our ability to play sports in light of our adherence to strict health and safety protocols and stringent testing requirements, including our recently announced partnership with Quidel which will enable daily rapid results testing," Scott said.

He added: "Our California and Oregon universities will now each individually and immediately reach out to their relevant county public health officials to seek clarification on what is required to achieve the same clearance to resume contact practice and competition."

Earlier this month, the Pac-12 announced a partnership that would give the conference's schools the capacity to perform daily, rapid COVID-19 tests on athletes. Scott has called the testing a "game-changer" and it certainly proved to be so in the Big Ten. That league's university presidents unanimously voted to return to competition in all fall sports and said their schools will begin daily antigen testing on Sept. 30.

The Pac-12 CEO Group is scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the conference's options. Because of the restrictions, it might take the teams that had been limited, including conference favorites Oregon and Southern California, more than a month to be ready to play. An Oct. 24 start, lined up with the Big Ten, could be challenging.

President Donald Trump pushed for the Big Ten to get back to football and had a similar sentiment for the Pac-12.

"I want to recommend Pac-12, you're the only one now," Trump said. "Open up, open up Pac-12."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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