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Pac-12 football return to play discussions still in early stages as some aim to start season Oct. 31

The Pac-12 remains in the early stages of considering a return to football this fall, league sources told CBS Sports. The conference’s biggest obstacle remains easing COVID-19 health restrictions in California and Oregon, states that house half of the league’s 12 teams.

“Still having conversations,” one highly placed Pac-12 source said.

“We still have a bunch of meetings that are going to happen these next few days,” said another Pac-12 source. “I’m skeptical … but all options are still on the table.”

Athletic directors at USC and UCLA spoke with Los Angeles County health officials on Wednesday and were led to believe county restrictions could be eased if the Pac-12 approves a return to play, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The issue could be addressed as soon as Friday by the Pac-12 presidents, which are holding a previously scheduled meeting. If the presidents allow a return of football, a shortened season could start as soon as Oct. 31. That would theoretically allow an eight-game season.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday lifted state restrictions that kept schools from conducting fully padded practices. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown had previously lifted restrictions that impacted Oregon and Oregon State. Those moves now allows schools to work directly with local health officials.

Elsewhere, the Mountain West is still gathering information on a fall return, according to commissioner Craig Thompson. He said the league is sorting through testing options before submitting a recommendation to the MW’s health and safety committee.

In April, Thompson raised the possibility the league could play a season without all its members. When asked again Thursday by CBS Sports, Thompson said it “has not been determined” if all 12 schools could go forward.

A key point: Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose State are impacted by the same health restrictions as those in the Pac-12.

At some point, the FBS commissioners will have to decide what constitutes eligibility for the College Football Playoff. The ACC is playing an 11-game schedule, while the Big 12 and SEC are at 10 games. The Big Ten has settled on nine. If the Pac-12 plays only eight, that would make four different season lengths for the Power Five conferences.

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