With the Pac-12 Conference announcing it will begin its season November 6th, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan addressed the media Friday go over some specifics.
As much as Utah needs the television revenue generated from football, playing in an empty Rice-Eccles Stadium with no fans will still undoubtedly hurt the athletic department, which was slated to lose $60 million if football were cancelled altogether.
“We know here at Utah that’s still a very significant financial hit,” Harlan said. “It was a great day yesterday for our student-athletes and coaches as you can imagine. But there was also real disappointment for our fans. We have, no question, the best fans in this conference. So that was tough.”
As for the schedule, which should be announced before the end of next week, Utah will play home games against Pac-12 South Division foes Arizona and USC, and road games at UCLA, Arizona State and Colorado. They will also play a 6th game against an undetermined Pac-12 North team at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Is it fair that some Pac-12 South teams will play crossover games against lower-tier teams Oregon State, while others will have to play Oregon or Washington? No, but Harlan says teams will just have to deal with the competitive unbalance, and all the games will count in the standings.
“We don’t know how many games we’re going to get in,” Harlan said. “We may lose games along the way. The way it’s set up, there’s no place to put the games. So if we’re playing a Pac-12 game and it so happens to be a crossover, they’ve got to count. The idea of us playing a crossover game and it not counting, and then the following week we play a South Division opponent that we can’t play because of the virus. Then all of a sudden we have two non-countable games, you have to look at it from that practical standpoint.”
The 7th game will either be the Pac-12 Championship game or another game against Pac-12 North team either at home or on the road.
Harlan said all bowl games with Pac-12 ties are willing to be flexible.
Pac-12 teams will almost certainly play fewer games than the other Power-5 schools, and there is a question whether that will hurt their chances of getting into the college football playoff.
“We go into this eyes wide open, knowing that we hope to get all those games in just like any other conference,” Harlan said. “But if it stays as is, I do believe, particularly if we have a really strong team that is an undefeated team or maybe a one-loss type team that wins our conference and the way our schedule is laid out, that team should absolutely be considered.”
The Utes will begin training camp October 9th or 10th.
Players that play in this abbreviated season will not lose a year of eligibility.
“So if you’re a junior this year, you’ll be a junior next year,” Harlan said.
Basketball season is slated to begin November 25th, with teams slated to play 18-20 conference games. The viability of non-conference games have yet to be determined.