As it stands, Nick Rolovich is scheduled to make his debut as Washington state head football coach on Sept. 3 in Logan, Utah.
“In my mind, I plan to play Utah State in game one,” Rolovich said Monday. “I’m optimistic about the 12 (games) we have until they tell you otherwise.”
However, the COVID-19 pandemic could change that plan, with Pac-12 and national discussion focusing on numerous scenarios for the next college football season.
“I think we are defining a smooth situation,” said David Shaw, Stanford head coach.
Rolovich, Shaw and Southern California head coach Clay Helton held a webinar with members of the media on Monday. It was the first of four webinars this week involving every Pac-12 head coach; Karl Dorrell from Colorado participates in Tuesday’s session.
Monday’s session was scheduled to focus on topics such as name, image and likeness, as well as the NCAA transfer rule. During the 31-minute session, those topics were never discussed, as the discussion focused mainly on the uncertainty of the football season.
“There are so many (scenarios), but the most important … what is the safest way to do what we want to do?” Said Shaw. “We need to have processes controlled by our medical professionals and then we need to have contingency plans.
“The rapid diagnostic testing is something that will be vital for us to reintegrate people into a small area. If someone tests positive, we need to discover it quickly and isolate it very quickly. Those things must be in place before we move to step two but at the same time we need to talk about step one, step two, step three, step four to be ready for the final meeting. “
The health and safety of the student athletes is a top priority, Helton said. Medical professionals spoke to the coaches during a meeting.
“It was just an incredible wealth of knowledge that was thrown at us,” said Helton. “It shows you how big a scope is and how big a project it will be when we get back to that safe environment.”
It is easier for some schools and states to get into that safe environment than others. For example, in Whitman County, where the Washington State campus is located, there are only 15 cases of COVID-19, with no deaths. In Los Angeles County, the death toll now exceeds 1,500.
NCAA President Mark Emmert said last week that he does not believe football and other sports are played when the campuses are not open. The varying degrees of COVID-19 cases poses difficulties in having an overall policy, Shaw said.
“Every state will be different; every campus will be different, “said Shaw. “I think that is a great feeling (van Emmert), but I don’t know if that will be the day when everything is said and done. I think the President of the United States will have a weight, I think every state governor will have a weighting; I think every (university) president, provost and chancellor will have a weighting. ”
Although the coaches want to play football, they want it to be done when it is safe to get the teams together.
“Overall, I want to play when we think it’s safe enough to play,” Rolovich said.
How the season is played can be changed. There has been discussion of eliminating the non-conference games and going with a conference-only schedule.
“Those are viable discussions,” said Helton. “Much is unknown. I really think we will get a much clearer picture in six to eight weeks. “
The College Football Playoff can be changed with various scenarios discussed. The CFP has had a four-team format since 2014 and will maintain that format until 2026.
“There has been a lot of discussion about, for this year, we will expand the playoff because we won’t really know how to cut this thing down to four,” said Shaw. “If we can play 12 (games) and keep the status quo, that’s great. Many of us believe it’s not going to be 12 and it might not even start in time. Those other factors will affect how the coming season looks like, as does the playoff. ”
However, the coaches are hopeful and optimistic about the season played in some form.
“I think we will all have tremendous gratitude … for playing the game we love,” said Helton, “and being lucky that when we are in that scenario, this virus and crisis placed further behind us. “
For the time being, an abundance of unknown factors has left coaches in the dark, but Shaw said the Pac-12 is ready to respond to the next steps.
“We are currently in a good position to act no matter what happens, what national and local governments say and all our individual schools,” he said. “We have a lot of smart guys with great ideas.”