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'Much-needed morale boost': Wildcats to open football, basketball seasons in November
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'Much-needed morale boost': Wildcats to open football, basketball seasons in November

Football season to kick off Nov. 6; basketball starting Nov. 25; no fans allowed until at least January

Pac-12 sports are back.

The conference announced Thursday that football, basketball and winter sports can resume after all athletic competitions were postponed through 2020 earlier this year.

The football season is set to begin Nov. 6, the men's and women's basketball seasons Nov. 25.

Pac-12 universities that have the "necessary public health approvals may commence practice immediately," according to a news release from the league. The plan is for each team to play a seven-game, conference-only season, with the league title game on Dec. 18.

Fans will not be allowed to attend any sporting events taking place on Pac-12 campuses, according to the league. That decision will be revisited in January.

"I want to thank the Pac-12 — both its leadership and other members — for taking the time to ensure our universities had protection protocols in place before moving forward with this important decision, and I am confident this plan to bring back fall sports can be successful," UA president Robert C. Robbins said in a statement after Thursday's vote by the Pac-12 CEO Group, of which he is a member.

"This step will provide a much-needed morale boost for the Arizona community and our fans around the nation, and it will give our student population an experience that many of them look forward to when they choose to attend the University of Arizona."

The Pac-12 will be the last of the Power Five conferences to begin its football season. On Aug. 11, the league postponed all sports through the end of the year because of concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

But a breakthrough in testing via an agreement with Quidel Corporation, announced Sept. 3, opened up the possibility of the league reversing course. The Big Ten announced it was lifting its postponement last week, leaving the Pac-12 as the last of the Power Five leagues to begin playing or announce a plan to do so.

In addition to daily antigen testing from Quidel, at least one weekly PCR test will also be administered for each student-athlete, according to the league. Also, all positive tests will be confirmed with a PCR test.

To address concerns regarding possible lingering effects from the virus, each Pac-12 sports medicine group will be implementing cardiac monitoring protocols for all student-athletes who test positive for COVID-19, the league announced.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports remains our guiding light and No. 1 priority,” Pac-12 CEO Group Chair and University of Oregon president Michael Schill said in a statement. “Our CEO Group has taken a measured and thoughtful approach to today’s decision, including extensive consultation with stakeholders on the evolving information and data related to health and safety.”

Said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott: “From the beginning of this crisis, our focus has been on following the science, data and counsel of our public health and infectious disease experts. Our agreement with Quidel to provide daily rapid-results testing has been a game-changer in enabling us to move forward with confidence that we can create a safe environment for our student-athletes while giving them the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

"At the same time, we will continue to monitor health conditions and data and be ready to adjust as required in the name of the health of all.”

The Pac-12 football schedule has no margin for error. The league will attempt to play seven games in seven weeks with no byes.

The original 2020 schedule had the Arizona Wildcats opening against Hawaii on Aug. 29. A revised, all-conference version — released July 31 but subsequently spiked — had the UA facing Arizona State this Saturday. It remains to be seen whom Arizona will face on Nov. 6 or 7.

Each team will play the five others in its division, plus two crossover games. The first crossover game will count toward determining the title-game participants. The second will be played on championship weekend and is expected to be based on the standings through six games.

Scott said the schedule likely will be announced next week. The Pac-12 will be considered for the College Football Playoff, Scott said.

"Everyone in the Arizona football family is thrilled that our student-athletes will have an opportunity to compete this fall," Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin said in a statement.

"I am proud of the patience, resilience and commitment that our team has shown during an unprecedented time. We will continue to work hard preparing for the moment when we once again take the field, while staying committed to keeping each other and those around us safe and healthy."

Arizona went 4-8 in Sumlin's second season, ending the year on a seven-game losing streak. The Wildcats, who have an entirely new defensive staff, conducted four of a possible 15 spring practices before sports were shut down in March.

Contact sports reporter Michael Lev at 573-4148 or mlev@tucson.com. On Twitter @michaeljlev 

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