SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The University of Utah Utes and Pac-12 will not play football this fall. The Pac-12 CEO Group voted unanimously Tuesday to postpone all sport competitions through the end of the 2020 calendar year.
Conference officials said the decision was made after consultation with athletics directors and with the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee who expressed concern with moving forward with contact practice. The conference also announced that when conditions improve, it would consider a return to competition for impacted sports after January 1, 2021.
“We’ve known for some time that this was a possibility, however, it is still disappointing news for our program our fans and especially for our student-athletes. We respect the guidance of the Pac-12 Medical Advisory Committee and the decision made today by the Pac-12 CEO Group, and we will continue to put our focus on our player’s academics and their development. Our number one priority is always the well-being of our players, and their health and safety come first,” Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement.
Student-athletes impacted by the postponement will continue to have their scholarships guaranteed. Additionally, the Pac-12 Conference “strongly” encourages that the NCAA grant students who opt out of competition this academic year an additional year of eligibility.
“The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports has been our number one priority since the start of this current crisis,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. “Our student-athletes, fans, staff and all those who love college sports would like to have seen the season played this calendar year as originally planned, and we know how disappointing this is.”
The hope is to move football season to the spring of 2021, but it may be unfeasible having two football seasons in one calendar year.
“Whether it’s a full season, a compressed season, there are a lot of different scenarios that folks are looking at,” Scott said. “There are going to be some health and safety considerations visa vi the fact that we’ve got a fall football season. We are reluctantly coming to this decision that the earliest we could start would be in January with a lot of details to figure out. We’re going to continue to monitor, we’re going to continue to evaluate, and when the conditions improve, which we’re confident they will, then we’re going to evaluate what we can do.”
Because all Pac-12 sports will be postponed to January 1st at the earliest, basketball season, which starts in November, will be affected as well.
Utah athletic director wrote a letter to fans detailing his reaction.
“As I write to you today, I recognize what a challenging time this is for everyone, and I’m hopeful this letter finds you and your family in good health.
This has been an incredibly difficult time for our young people, and our primary concern is for the health, safety and well-being of the student-athletes, whose interests and needs we prioritize and serve on a daily basis. I want to take this opportunity to share with you a disappointing development for those student-athletes, as well as for our coaches, staff, the University and for all of you who support Utah Athletics so passionately.
Today the Pac-12 announced the postponement of all fall sports, and a pause of any competition until after January 1. We know this presents a significant disruption to so many of our student-athletes across multiple sport programs, and especially for our seniors in those sports. For months we have been working diligently in consultation with top medical experts to create a safe path for competition in these sports to take place, and using all of the information and time available to us. However, with the challenges and complexities presented by COVID-19, the medical advice does not support conducting fall sports seasons.
We applaud and appreciate the work being done on each of our individual campuses and, by our local and state health officials and by the Pac-12 Medical Advisory Committee. The plans created to allow for the start of voluntary workouts earlier this summer were thorough, prudent and have proven to be highly successful. Our student-athletes, coaches and staff have been extremely diligent in adhering to those protocols and making smart decisions in their personal lives. Moving from that phase to full-contact workouts and the type of practices necessary to safely prepare for competition is not something that was recommended by the Pac-12 Medical Advisory Committee at this time.
Our attention will continue to focus on providing for the academic, emotional and physical well-being of our student-athletes. They will continue to prepare for their upcoming academic semester, and they will continue to have the same access to our first-class medical care, mental health care, academic support, nutrition and meals and scholarship support. We are also working closely with the Pac-12 and the NCAA to address questions regarding eligibility.
We know there is a great deal of disappointment around this decision for all involved. I write to you today in acknowledgment and recognition of your passion and loyalty to the University of Utah and the young people who represent all of us so admirably in athletics.
It was prudent that we make every effort possible to preserve the opportunity for our fall sports to compete in 2020. Our ability to serve our student-athletes is something we strive to preserve in every way possible, and our ability to do so is best served by having fall sports. I feel very confident that every responsible avenue was explored in this pursuit, and I support this very difficult decision made by the Pac-12 CEO Group.
We know that you who support our athletics programs with such dedication and commitment also experience a loss with this decision, and we know that you have many questions that we will seek to answer as quickly as possible. Football season ticket holders have received several communications in recent months outlining the options available if a season was not played. Fans may receive a full refund, or they may either designate their 2020 season ticket payment as a tax-deductible donation to Utah Athletics or apply the payment to their 2021 season tickets. With all three options they retain their season ticket holder status for 2021. In light of the significant budget strain presented by these challenges, I encourage those who are able to please consider converting their 2020 season ticket payment to a tax-deductible donation. These donations will assist us in supporting our student-athletes and maintaining our academic, and eventually competitive, momentum.”
We are extremely grateful for your continued support, loyalty and patience while we have worked through this process. It as an extremely disappointing situation, and the decision today is difficult to digest for all of us, but we also know we have incredibly resilient student-athletes, coaches and staff, and the most loyal, dedicated and passionate fans, and we will emerge stronger.