The Pac 12 has gathered all of its coaches in one week to meet with the media to discuss the current circumstances in which the sport lives. Better than to have us chase them all down. They have created a sort-of Pac 12 Media Days.
There will be no mass gatherings of college football teams and national media this year. Those events take months to plan and coordinate. With the uncertainty created by COVID-19, all the conferences have gone to webinar-style meetings. The Pac-12, however, added in a week of webinars with coaches in mid-May to discuss circumstances surrounding CFB and the Covid-19 pandemic. Naturally it is also a time when even less is known about a potential 2020 college football season.
In traditional times, each coach would be on the podium for 20 minutes or so taking questions from the media. These sessions specific sessions are broken out over four days with three coaches at a time in a Zoom meeting. They are done to discuss the current circumstances surrounding a CFB season, and contrary to prior reporting are not the official media days.
Washington State’s first year coach Nick Rolovich, USC’s Clay Helton, and Stanford’s David Shaw met with the media in digital format Monday afternoon.
Shaw has been a part of committees having these meetings on a conference and national basis, discussing what it will take to have college football in the Fall. “I think we are in a good position right now to handle whatever happens as far as national and local governments say and all of our individual schools.”
One thing that has happened on an almost daily basis across the country is media members asking coaches and athletic directors if there will be a season this Fall. Clearly, not a single coach knows, nor does any athletic director. Right now, the best any of them can do is imagine what they will need to get a season going in any capacity. NCAA president Mark Emmert has said he needs to see on-campus classes resume before he can imagine having football games. Shaw said that is a down-the-road thought. “I think that is a great sentiment, but I don’t think that is going to rule the day when everything is said and done.”
A running theme for all three coaches was that right now it is about looking at different scenarios, and what it takes to be able to meet those plans. They all agreed they think they have about 6-7 weeks before definitive plans have to be determined.
Helton said they are all keeping up hope for a season in some format. “I think as coaches, we are glass half-full people and we are optimistic about a season. We don’t know what that timing is of a start date and we don’t know the structure. But we have been talking about all different scenarios; about maybe an opportunity to start on time, maybe it is pushed back. Maybe it is more of an abbreviated schedule.”
There have been discussions about pushing back to a later start date and playing only conference games. But there is no clarity as to how that would work. Some conferences play more out of conference games than do other conferences, creating an imbalance. The coaches within the conference, and on a national landscape, have also discussed how a reformatted season would impact the post season. Would they have to re-examine their conference bowl tie-ins? Would they need to expand the playoffs for the season because of the oddity of the various schedules?
Shaw said, “Depending on what the schedule looks like, depending on how many people (schools) are playing, depending on who you are playing. If we go to a conference only schedule, how do you compare conference to conference? Many of us believe it is not going to be 12 (games), and many of believe it is not going to start on time.”
Helton said whatever the structure of the regular season winds up being will dictate what the post-season looks like.
Rolovich is no Mike Leach when it comes to an open-Mic-night style. It is not a long, rambling comedy routine. But his dry sense of humor was clear in his debut meeting with the conference media. The coaches were asked about playing in empty stadiums, with no fans. Rolovich quipped, “It would save a lot of time on silent count practice.”
He also had “Sharon” sitting next to him in the screen shot. Sharon would be a full-sized stuffed cougar left behind by his predecessor, Leach.
Helton said every team needed several weeks to get their players into “functional football shape” prior to going to full contact camp in order to avoid injuries. “It takes time before you go and start and a season.”
With 12 campuses covering six states, the schools are living different experiences in terms of shutdowns and other rules. That makes it difficult to have a unified plan within the conference, much less on a national scale. Shaw said, “Our governor, (Gavin Newsom), has been probably one of the most outspoken and aggressive governors in the nation, he has been in great communication with other states as well.” Shaw believes the communication will help with a more uniform answer.
What is clear thus far is the lack of clarity, despite bold projections by some coaches or administrators. Shaw stated the obvious for the nation to hear. “I think where we are is the definition of a fluid situation.”
Tuesday the Pac 12 will have a media session with coaches Karl Dorrell of Colorado, Utah’s Kyle Whittingham, and Washington’s Jimmy Lake.
Editor’s note: There will still be media days in the Summer to discuss individual team issues.