The Pac-12 announced its full 10-game conference-only fall football schedule Friday. The 12-week-long schedule consists of five road and five home games for each of the 12 schools and is subject to approval of public health officials.
USC will visit rival UCLA in the opening week of the season Sept. 26, three weeks after the season was initially scheduled to begin. This will be the earliest the two teams have faced off in the calendar year since 1945 and the first time since 1930 that the schools will not face off in November or December.
“We understand the great interest in the 90th edition of our historic football rivalry game,” Athletic Director Mike Bohn said in a joint statement with UCLA Athletic Director Martin Jarmond. “Though we are progressing toward the start of our respective seasons, at this time we do not have the necessary county and state clearances to begin competitions … UCLA and USC are in absolute alignment, and we remain in regular communication with state, local, and university officials.”
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a virtual press conference that scheduling USC and UCLA against each other in the first week allows for the game to be easily rescheduled should the coronavirus surge in Los Angeles prevent the teams from facing off in Week 1.
The Trojans are scheduled to return to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to face Cal in Week 2 on Oct. 3, USC’s latest home opener since 1992.
As per usual, each Pac-12 team will be granted a bye week — scheduled as Week 6 for the Trojans — but the conference is also adding an open week between Week 11 and the Pac-12 Championship Game to allow for makeup games if teams must reschedule any matchups.
“Building in flexibility to the schedule is so important,” Scott said. “We’re going in expecting [an outbreak on a team] is a real possibility. And if that happens … that will require the rescheduling of a game.”
The conference also announced that the Dec. 18 or 19 championship game will be played at one of the participating teams’ home stadiums, with the two-year agreement to play the Pac-12 Championship Game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev. being pushed to 2021.
The remainder of the Trojans’ schedule includes home games against Colorado, Washington State, Arizona State and Washington and away games against Stanford, Arizona, Oregon and Utah. In the new schedule, the Trojans alternate home and away games each week throughout the season and never have consecutive games at or away from home. Oregon is the only other Pac-12 school with a similar structure.
All of USC’s games are on Saturdays with the exception of a Week 10 Friday contest at Utah Nov. 27. Friday’s announcement did not include any information about fan attendance.
Head coach Clay Helton and the Trojans will close out the 10-game schedule at the Coliseum against Washington Dec. 5, the last of a difficult four-game stretch featuring matchups with Oregon, Arizona State and Utah.
The Pac-12 CEO Group will allow teams 20 hours of summer mandatory activities beginning Aug. 3, and teams may begin training camp Aug. 17.
Scott addressed the possibility that some schools may not be able to start the season Sept. 26 due to the prevalence of the coronavirus in their respective communities, adding that the Pac-12 may push the season’s start date back if the situation warrants it. He added that some schools may not be able to fit in all 10 games and the conference will consider the possibility of a spring portion of the schedule in that circumstance.
Scott said he is unsure of his confidence level but “cautiously optimistic” that there will be a college football season this fall. He added that there are elements entirely out of the conference’s control that could threaten the fall season.
“What happens when thousands of students come back to our campus? None of us have the answer to that question,” Scott said. “We feel a tremendous obligation, however, for the health and well-being of our student-athletes, including their mental health, to provide every opportunity possible to be able to play.”
The Pac-12 also announced that women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country competition can begin no earlier than the weekend of Sept. 26, with practices allowed to begin Aug. 15 — also subject to the approval of public health authorities. The conference has not yet released full schedules for these sports.