From Staff and Wire Reports
Published 10:08 p.m. ET July 10, 2020
Texas Tech’s Sept. 19 home football game against Arizona is off, although Tech athletics director Kirby Hocutt says he will continue to look at options “to play a complete football schedule.”
The Pac-12 has become the second major conference to shift to a conference-only fall schedule amid growing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement came after a meeting of the Pac-12 CEO Group on Friday, a day after the Big Ten opted to eliminate nonconference games for all fall sports.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports continues to be our No. 1 priority,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “Our decisions have and will be guided by science and data, and based upon the trends and indicators over the past days, it has become clear that we need to provide ourselves with maximum flexibility to schedule, and to delay any movement to the next phase of return-to-play activities.”
The Atlantic Coast, Big 12 and Southeastern conferences are still weighing options for fall sports. On Wednesday, the Ivy League became the first Division I conference to suspend all fall sports until at least January, leaving open the possibility of moving some sports to the spring if the pandemic is under better control.
The Pac-12’s decision covers football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball. Conference-only schedules will be announced no later than July 31.
Pac-12 member Arizona was scheduled to play at Texas Tech in in each team’s third game of the season. Tech senior associate athletics director Jonathan Botros, who is the department’s chief financial officer, said Tech would project $2 million to $2.3 million in revenue from such a game in a normal year.
Tech might be freed from the obligation to pay Arizona a $400,000 game guarantee, though the force majeure clause in the game contract does not specify a pandemic as a reason for waiving the obligation.
It does cite circumstances “beyond the reasonable control of the party obligated to render performance.”
“I’ve seen some in the past that have mentioned a pandemic, believe it or not, or epidemic,” Botros said, “but our game guarantee contracts do not. So I think it’s probably a little too early to tell how we handle that.
“Would we ask Arizona to come for a future game? But we’ve got our schedule booked up until almost 2030 for power-five opponents, so that’s difficult to ask there.”
Botros spoke to A-J Media late Friday afternoon, about an hour before the Pac-12 announcement.
Shortly after the announcement, Tech released a statement from Hocutt.
“While we are disappointed, we understand the challenges the upcoming football season will present for all of us,” he said. “We will continue to evaluate our options to play a complete football schedule.”
Tech is scheduled to receive a $300,000 game guarantee from UT-El Paso for the Red Raiders’ Sept. 5 season opener on the road and is scheduled to pay Alabama State $300,000 for the Sept. 12 home opener.
The Pac-12 is also delaying the start of mandatory athletic activities until a series of health and safety indicators become more positive.
The college sports world has been put on hold since the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the lucrative NCAA basketball tournaments and all spring sports. Athletes recently began returning to campuses for voluntary workouts, but many schools have scaled back after reporting positive COVID-19 tests among athletes in the past month.
Schools also have faced massive budget shortfalls in the wake of the pandemic.
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The NCAA shorted its member schools $375 million in scheduled payouts due to the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament and schools across the country have been hit with massive budget shortfalls as college sports remain on hold.
Stanford eliminated 11 of its 36 varsity sports this week and at least 171 four-year schools have eliminated sports during the pandemic.
“Arizona State University and Sun Devil Athletics support the Pac-12’s announcement of a strictly conference schedule for the 2020 football and fall sports seasons,” Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said in a statement. “We will continue to seek the guidance and input from medical and infectious disease experts, as well as our local and campus health officials and doctors as we evaluate this ever-changing landscape.”
A shift to conference-only schedules will likely have a ripple across the college sports landscape.
Smaller schools that rely on revenue from guarantee football games against power-five schools could be shorted millions of dollars.
Non-power five schools receive hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than $1 million from guarantee games to fund their athletic departments. Guarantee-game revenue can account for more than 5% of a school’s overall athletic budget.
A-J Media staff writer Don Williams and The Associated Press’ John Marshall contributed to this report.
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