Mark Faller, Arizona Republic
Published 8:31 p.m. ET May 12, 2020 | Updated 10:53 p.m. ET May 12, 2020
The college football season is set to start about four months from now. But, even if students are on campus this fall, one power five program still may not take the field.
Pro sports in Arizona, shut down along with the rest of the nation for two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, are still quite far from resuming. But a big hurdle was cleared on Tuesday when Gov. Doug Ducey cleared the way for professional leagues to resume operations in the state after May 15.
“We have had discussions with leaders with some of these leagues, and they all know they are welcome to operate, play and perform in the state of Arizona,” Ducey said, adding that it would be a limited reopening, without fans in attendance, and with the understanding the teams would follow public health protection protocols and Centers for Disease Control and Protection guidelines.
Reaction from the pro sports teams in the Valley of the Sun was swift, if guarded.
“I was pleased to hear the Governor’s comments on the state’s willingness to allow sporting events in a controlled environment,” Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall said in a statement. “We have been in constant communication and he has consistently shown cooperation and support to us and league leadership. Both he and I have made it clear we are more than willing to be part of a solution if there is a need for us to host more teams or games.”
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Major League Baseball owners on Monday sent a proposal to the players association that would, if approved, open the 2020 MLB season on July 4.
Some of the baseball scenarios have listed the Valley as a possible site for the resumption of more than Arizona Diamondbacks games; similar ideas have been floated for possible NBA and NHL playoff hubs including Phoenix.
Other teams said any resumption of activities would be tied to what their leagues decide.
“We would still need the NFL to green-light the return to team facilities and resume activities,” Mark Dalton, the Arizona Cardinals’ senior vice president/media relations, told the Arizona Republic in a statement.
The Arizona Coyotes said basically the same thing in their own statement: “We are aware of Governor Ducey’s announcement and will await direction from the NHL.”
The Phoenix Suns said they were aware of Ducey’s announcement and are planning to move forward with voluntary individual workouts, which were scheduled to begin as early as May 16 after the governor’s stay-at-home order expired.
The NBA, which is trying to decide whether to resume the suspended 2019-20 season, jump to a playoff scenario or cancel outright and focus on next season, has issued league-wide guidelines for these voluntary workouts. Ducey’s order would make it possible for players within driving distance of Phoenix to come in for workouts, adhering NBA safety policy.
As for the WNBA, which was originally scheduled to begin play on Friday, league officials have yet to speculate on when training camps or the planned 36-game season might begin.
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“We are aware of the governor’s announcement,” the Phoenix Mercury said in a statement. “At this time, as we had not yet begun our training camp, many of our players are not in Arizona and therefore team facilities are not currently open to players. We will ensure the (Veterans Memorial) Coliseum is ready to host players when the time comes but in the meantime, we are conducting voluntary virtual meetings with players.”
On Tuesday, the United Soccer League’s Phoenix Rising were the first professional sports team in the state of Arizona to resume training at team facilities.
— Phoenix Rising FC | Rising Together But Separate (@PHXRisingFC) May 11, 2020
Ducey’s announcement did not address college or high school sports. The return of those activities is tied to the re-opening of schools and campuses, and timetables that will be made by the NCAA, college conferences and the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
This story was compiled by the Arizona Republic‘s Bob McManaman, Richard Morin, Richard Obert, Nick Piecoro and Duane Rankin, and was written by Mark Faller.