Posted on September 20, 2020
For the purpose of keeping my priorities straight, I’d like to start this off with a note and a clarification of sorts:
Whether or not Pac-12 football actually ends up coming back this fall—or winter, spring or whenever—health and safety must be at the absolute forefront.
You’ve read and heard the latter part of that sentence a billion times in a million contexts since quarantine began a few months ago, but it still rings true.
Alright, with that out of the way, let’s get into it.
If you’ve felt a sense of isolation since the college football season began a couple weeks ago, you’re probably a Pac-12 football fan. Conferences such as the ACC and the Big 12 are already in full swing, with the Big Ten and SEC about to join in on the party.
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 has been watching from afar.
My mind goes immediately to that meme from SpongeBob (yes I turn 21 in three months, so what?) where Squidward is looking out the top window of his house while SpongeBob and Patrick are having fun outside. Just replace Squidward with the Pac-12, SpongeBob with the ACC and Patrick with the Big 12. That’s what the last few weeks have felt like.
Yes, I know, that analogy was kind of forced, but so is this stop-and-go football season, which has raised and dashed our hopes more than once.
Now, I know nobody takes the Pac-12 seriously. I know that the only people that actually miss Pac-12 football are Pac-12 fans, Pac-12 student-athletes, Pac-12 schools, Pac-12 students, Pac-12 alumni, and quite literally no one else.
But purely from a football standpoint, the Pac-12 being the only Power Five that doesn’t play this fall would be catastrophic for the Conference and its reputation.
This is where my clarification from the top comes back into play: I understand that it may be necessary, should conditions surrounding the coronavirus in member cities like Los Angeles or Seattle not improve in due time.
I understand that playing a season carries risk for student-athletes, coaches and team personnel regardless of the Pac-12’s daily rapid-response testing plan in partnership with Quidel Corporation.
This is all important stuff — very important stuff. But I’m talking about football. FOOTBALL. I’m not saying what they should do, I’m saying what will happen if they don’t play.
The Pac-12’s reputation is already rock-bottom, and whether Commissioner Larry Scott is to blame for that is entirely beside the point.
Last week, myself and my Trojan Dash co-host Reagan Griffin Jr. talked about how the Pac-12’s reputation would suffer if it didn’t return, and a hilarious viewer rhetorically asked in the chat: “People watch the pac 12?”
Point taken, TrojanDashChatTroll17532739. Very few people watch the Pac-12, and herein lies the problem: If the Pac-12 didn’t play this fall, that number would decrease from “very few” to “practically zero.”
What do you think the general reaction to the Pac-12 opting not to play a fall season out of health and safety concerns would have been, among the college football fan demographic?
I’ll lay out two options, and you pick the most likely candidate.
Option 1: “Oh, the Pac-12 isn’t playing. Good on them. Football is fun and all, but the health and safety of student-athletes and surrounding communities comes first. The coronavirus is a real threat, and college football — especially with its refusal to compensate student-athletes for the considerable risks they undertake — must come second. Wear a mask!”
Option 2: “The Pac-12 isn’t playing?!?! What losers!!! Buncha liberals in their stupid liberal states. Couldn’t give a damn though, not like they’re even relevant. Roll Tide!”
I’ll give you a hint: It’s Option 2.
For the 800th time in this column, that reaction shouldn’t drive the Pac-12’s decision. But if there is a safe and smart way to get this done, it might save the Pac-12 from the reputational abyss it’s catapulted itself into over the course of the last decade or so — or at least, delay the demise of the Conference’s national relevance another year.
Yeah, sure. I do that. But it’s clear that the Pac-12 has some work to do to stay relevant. And sitting out the season while the other four Power Fives get to frolic in the football flowers certainly wouldn’t help.
—Recent Nathan Ackerman Stories—
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