The Pac-12 Conference has announced that several fall sports will move to conference-only competition, following in the footsteps of an announcement by the Big Ten earlier in the week. Multiple college swim coaches around the country said that they expect most or all of the “Power 5” conferences to move to this model over the coming week as athletics directors grapple with how to safely reopen college campuses amid a growing number of coronavirus cases in the United States.
Specifically, the Pac-12 will move to a conference-only schedule for men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, and football. The Big Ten, conversely, issued the edict for all intercollegiate athletics in the fall season.
These represent 4 of the 8 NCAA Division I fall sports. The lone fall aquatic sport, men’s water polo, is not impacted directly by the Pac-12’s new ruling. 4 Pac-12 schools sponsor men’s water polo, Cal, USC, UCLA, and Stanford, and they compete in the MPSF conference.
Also unimpacted by the ruling is women’s field hockey (Cal and Stanford compete in the America East), and men’s and women’s cross country (sponsored by all 12 Pac-12 schools).
With all 4 of the impacted teams scheduled to start their seasons with non-conference games, this will, by consequence, delay the start of the competition season in those sports.
The conference also committed to honor scholarships for student-athletes who choose not to participate in intercollegiate athletics during the coming academic year because of safety concerns about COVID-19. Those athletes will remain in good standing with their team.
The Pac-12’s first football games were scheduled for Saturday, August 29. This includes the cancellation of several big-ticket games, including a September 5th matchup between Alabama and USC. The first scheduled conference football game was scheduled for September 12 between Stanford and Arizona in Tucson. The conference now says that it will announce details on conference-only schedules no later than July 31.
As more of the big-money Power 5 conference move to conference-only play, questions loom about how this could impact selections for post-season play, and how the decisions could trickle down to mid-major conferences. Many mid-major programs make significant portions of their athletic department revenue annually from fees paid to go play games at the stadiums of Power 5 schools.
The announcement comes on the same day as the Pac-12 announced its final 2018-2019 financial results which saw conference revenue climb by 7% to $530 million. Combined with a decrease in expenses of 6%, this allowed the conference to distribute $387 million to its member schools for the year, a 9% increase over the prior year. That comes to an average of $32.2 million per member university. Those numbers do not include the equity value of each school’s ownership in the Pac-12 Networks.
Pac-12 Conference members have won more NCAA national team championships than any other conference in Division I history with 529 total championships.
Cal, Stanford, UCLA, and USC have combined to win 46 out of 51 possible NCAA titles in men’s water polo. Pac-12 schools have won all 19 NCAA women’s water polo championships that have been offered.
In men’s swimming & diving, USC leads the conference with 9 NCAA titles, followed by Stanford at 8, and Cal at 6. Arizona and UCLA have each won 1 team championship.
In women’s swimming & diving, Stanford has won 11 national championships, more than any other school. Cal has won 4, Arizona has won 1, and USC has won 1.
Pac-12 schools are the defending NCAA Champions in all four aquatic disciplines.