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Pac-12 joins Big Ten in eliminating nonconference games

UH was to have played Arizona, UCLA, Oregon

By JOHN MARSHALL

The Associated Press

The Pac-12 has become the second major conference to shift to a conference-only fall schedule amid growing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, a decision that leaves the University of Hawaii football team without an opponent until October.

The announcement came after a meeting of the Pac-12 CEO Group on Friday, a day after the Big Ten opted to eliminate nonconference games for all fall sports.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports continues to be our No. 1 priority,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “Our decisions have and will be guided by science and data, and based upon the trends and indicators over the past days, it has become clear that we need to provide ourselves with maximum flexibility to schedule, and to delay any movement to the next phase of return-to-play activities.”

The Pac-12’s decision covers football, soccer and women’s volleyball. Conference-only schedules will be announced no later than July 31.

A shift to conference-only schedules will likely have a ripple across the college sports landscape.

Smaller schools that rely on revenue from guarantee football games against Power Five schools could be shorted millions of dollars.

Non-Power Five schools, such as Hawaii, receive hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than $1 million from guarantee games to fund their athletic departments.

The Rainbow Warriors had three games against Pac-12 opponents this season: at Arizona on Aug. 29, at home against UCLA on Sept. 5 and at Oregon on Sept. 19. They had already lost one opponent for 2020 — Fordham confirmed earlier this week that it was canceling its game at Aloha Stadium scheduled for Sept. 12.

Friday’s announcement means UH is not scheduled to open its season until Oct. 3 at home against Mountain West Conference foe Nevada. The Warriors’ only nonconference game left on the schedule is an Oct. 10 home game against New Mexico State.

“Obviously with three Pac-12 teams on our football schedule, today’s decision affects us more than others,” UH athletic director David Matlin said in a statement. “We are disappointed because not only were we looking forward to opening the season at Arizona, we were excited to host UCLA for the first time in over 80 years and renew a series with Oregon. However the decision was made in the best interest of student-athlete health and wellness and we support that and will move on accordingly with the rest of our schedule.”

The Atlantic Coast, Big 12 and Southeastern conferences are still weighing options for fall sports. On Wednesday, the Ivy League became the first Division I conference to suspend all fall sports until at least January, leaving open the possibility of moving some sports to the spring if the pandemic is under better control.

In a statement after the Pac-12’s announcement, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said the conference is in communication with its member schools and advisors.

“As has been the case since the onset of the pandemic, we are fully engaged with our membership and advisors on a nearly daily basis exploring the myriad of potential scenarios around returning to competition,” Thompson said. “We were aware of this possibility and will continue to evaluate the appropriate decisions and the proper timing going forward. The safety, health, and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, staff members and campuses remain our top priority.”