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Pac-12 players threaten to sit out 2020 season over racial injustice, COVID-19 concerns


A text message circulating among Pac-12 football players is encouraging them to opt-out of practices and games until they can negotiate protections and benefits related to health and safety, economic rights and the fight against racial injustice.

ESPN first reported the possible movement among players at multiple Pac-12 schools and The Athletic published the text invitation. A public announcement, along with a list of demands, was published Sunday through The Players Tribune and social media platforms.

“Our [goal is to] obtain a written contract with the Pac-12 that legally ensures we are offered the following protections and benefits.”

Listed are:

  • Ensure safe play during COVID-19
  • Fight racial injustice
  • Secure economic rights and fair compensation. “Distribute 50% of each sport’s total conference revenue evenly among athletes in their respective sports,” the players wrote in the Tribune piece.
  • Protect all sports
  • Obtain long-term health insurance

“Due to COVID-19 and other serious concerns, we will opt-out of Pac-12 fall camp and game participation unless [our] demands are guaranteed in writing by our conference to protect and benefit both scholarship athletes and walk-ons,” the players wrote.

The Pac-12 on Friday announced its plan to delay the start of the season to Sept. 26 and play only 10 conference games in an attempt to manage potential disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. The states of California and Arizona, home to half the Pac-12 teams, have experienced some of the worst surges in coronavirus cases over the last month.

The Pac-12 approved a plan that will allow teams in the conference to start 20 hours per week of team activities, including weight training, meetings and non-contact practices known as walk-throughs. Preseason practice in the Pac-12 is scheduled to start Aug. 17, but currently USC, UCLA and Cal are operating under local restrictions that would prevent their football teams from practicing.

“Neither the Conference nor our university athletics departments have been contacted by this group regarding these topics,” the Pac-12 said in a statement. “We support our student-athletes using their voices, and have regular communications with our student-athletes at many different levels on a range of topics. As we have clearly stated with respect to our fall competition plans, we are, and always will be, directed by medical experts with health, safety and well being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff always the first priority. We have made it clear that any student who chooses not to return to competition for health and safety reasons will have their scholarship protected.”

Also on Saturday, The Washington Post reported on a meeting between player representatives from Southeastern Conference teams and the league’s commissioner, Greg Sankey, and medical advisers. The Post obtained an audio recording of the meeting.

“For so much unknown in the air right now, is it worth having a football season without certainty?” an unidentified player asked.

Sankey responded: “Part of our work is to bring as much certainty in the midst of this really strange time as we can so you can play football in the most healthy way possible, with the understanding there aren’t any guarantees in life.”

Pac-12 to mirror SEC, go with 10-game, conference-only schedule that kicks off Sept. 26

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The Pac-12 has become the third Power Five conference to clarify its plans for the 2020 college football season.

It was already known that the Pac-12 would play a conference-only season this year. Friday, the league confirmed that it will go with a 10-game conference late.  At the moment, the league is scheduled to kick off that campaign Sept. 26.  Week 1, which would be Week 4 of a normal season, will feature a pair of rivalry games in UCLA-USC and Arizona-Arizona State.

Each Pac-12 school will play five home games and five on the road.

The conference championship game had been scheduled for the first weekend of December in Las Vegas.  Now, it will be played on either the 18th or 19th of that month on the campus of the highest seed.

The conference also noted that the title game will be played at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas in both 2021 and 2022.

“From the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, we have been committed to prioritizing the health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to our athletic programs,” said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott in a statement. “The schedule and plans approved today and path to return to competition are subject to public health orders and will be taken in accordance with the health and well-being guidelines developed by our Pac-12 Medical Advisory Committee. The schedule and return to play plans provide for maximum flexibility and the best opportunity to play all fall sports in an environment that prioritizes safety. At the same time, we will continue to evaluate the best available science, data and advice of public health officials as we make decisions and any required adjustments going forward.

The SEC had previously announced that it will be going to a conference-only, 10-game schedule that kicks off Sept. 26. The ACC will play 10 conference games as well as one non-conference matchup per school.  That conference, though, will kick off its season Sept. 7-12.

The Big Ten and Big 12 have yet to announce their specific plans, although the latter will be going with a conference-only schedule that consists of 10 games.

Manning Award releases its 30-player preseason watch list, including North Dakota State’s Trey Lance

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Count the Manning Award among the latest to release its preseason grouping of players to watch this season.  Provided there is a season, of course.

Thursday, the Manning Award, named in honor of the quarterbacking Mannings — ArchiePeyton and Eli — and sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl, announced its 30-player preseason watch list.  The Manning, incidentally, goes to the nation’s top quarterback and is the only major trophy to take into account postseason performance.

Five of last year’s Manning Award finalists are included on this year’s watch list: Justin Fields (Ohio State), Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Tanner Morgan (Minnesota), Kyle Trask (Florida) and Brady White (Memphis).

From the award’s release:

This year’s Watch List includes players from all 10 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences. The AAC, Big 12 and Big Ten lead the way with four selections, while the ACC, C-USA, the Pac-12 and the SEC each have three selections. There are 13 seniors on the list while the junior class is represented by 11 quarterbacks and the sophomore class has six.

Also included in the list is Trey Lance of FCS North Dakota State.

“It sure has been a unique offseason, but we’re still looking forward to the prospect of seeing a great group of quarterbacks compete this year,” Archie Manning said in a statement. “Our Watch List is once again an exceptional group of candidates, but every year is a new year and we’ll be watching closely to add the best newcomers to the list after we get things rolling. I’d also like to thank the Allstate Sugar Bowl for sponsoring this award; it means a lot to the entire Manning family that they include our name in recognizing the best quarterbacks in the country.”

Last year’s winner of the award was LSU’s Joe Burrow.

Below is the complete preseason watch list for this year’s Manning Award.

Justin Fields, Chuba Hubbard headline Maxwell Award preseason watch list

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#WatchListSZN continues unabated, with the Maxwell Award next up on the preseason junket.

Friday morning, the Maxwell Award announced its preseason watch list consisting of 90 college football players from across the country.  Presently annually to the Collegiate Player of the Year, the Maxwell Award is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the sport.

None of the three finalists from a year ago, LSU quarterback and 2019 winner Joe Burrow, Ohio State defensive end Chase Young and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, are on this year’s watch list.  Burrow and Young, incidentally, went 1-2 in the 2020 NFL Draft.  There are, however, six semifinalists from a year ago.

The Big Ten leads all conferences with 15 watch listers, followed by the ACC (14) and SEC (13).  The AAC and Mountain West, with nine apiece, have the most for Group of Five leagues.  And the other Power Fives?  The Pac-12 posted eight, the Big 12 seven.

Four individual schools, Alabama, Indiana, Louisville and Memphis, had three players apiece on the preseason watch list.  Another 11 have two each: Auburn, Boise State, Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State and SMU.

Below is the complete preseason watch list for the 2020 Maxwell Award.

Report: Pac-12 expected to unveil 10-game schedule that kicks off Sept. 19

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As all sides look to salvage some semblance of a 2020 college football season, the Pac-12 is getting set to unveil its overhauled slate.  Reportedly.

July 10, the Pac-12 announced that it is eliminating non-conference games this season and going with a conference-only schedule.  That Power Five conference’s move came a day after the Big Ten made a similar announcement.  At the time, it was expected the league would reveal its schedules no later than July 31.

With such a deadline a little over a week away, Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News is reporting that the Pac-12 is finalizing its scheduling plans for the 2020 football season. “The official announcement, with weekly matchups, is expected no later than the end of next week,” Wilner wrote.

And what will the schedule look like when it is unveiled?  Again per Wilner, the Pac-12 is expected to go with a 10-game schedule, with each team playing its division opponents and five crossover games.  As a backup plan, a nine-game schedule will be worked up as well.

Instead of Sept. 5, the 2020 season would begin Sept. 19.  There are at least two bye weekends built-in, in case pandemic-related issues force the postponement of any contests.  Additionally, three dates are under consideration for the conference’s championship game: the original date of Dec. 4 in Las Vegas, as well as the following two weekends.

It’s expected that at least the Big Ten will follow a very similar model as the Pac-12’s.  The other Power Five leagues, the ACC, Big 12 and SEC, are also looking at schedules that consist mainly of conference games.  Those conferences, though, are also considering at least one non-conference game.  For example, there are multiple reports that Alabama, which was scheduled to open the 2020 season against USC, could open with BYU, which had its opener against Utah canceled when the Pac-12 went to a conference-only schedule.

The ACC, Big 12 and SEC are expected to announce its plans next week as well.