Pac-12 Decision Day: Going for It, Forfeiting or Punting?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials 63 Comments

It is time we learn the fate of the Pac-12 football season, as it was announced three weeks ago that a decision about the schedule would be announced by the end of July. By the time this is published, we may know the decision, but I am curious as to what your guess was going into the upcoming Pac-12 season. Did you (or do you) think the conference, like on a big fourth-down play, would go for it, forfeit the season or defer and punt the decision to a later date?

What do you think the conference should do or should have done … and why?

Most of you know that my prediction was a variation of two choices above: I believe they will cancel the season, but string out the decision process until we realize in October that it is not going to happen. I suspect that the universities have contract performance clauses and penalties with a hundred vendors as a reason for pushing the announcement to later date, as I cannot imagine this unusual circumstance being covered and allowed in a normal contract for services or products.

As I stated recently, I believe the liability to football programs and universities is greater than the potential reward of having a season. Again, I cannot imagine that the liability policies in place would cover this weird time we are in, which means the risk of lawsuit(s) is almost assured if a season goes forward. An additional factor is my own potential culpability as a fan: could fan selfishness cost a player his long-term health or another fan his or her life?

Kevin Cline

We would not want fans or players to get hurt!

Do you want that guilt hanging over you? Could it be a permanent buzzkill for the fan base and cool the interest in college sports if the worst were to occur this season? Could lives be saved by just waiting?

The health scenario is presently unclear, a muddled mess at best. The states of California and Arizona have big jumps in COVID-19 cases, and Oregon is predicted to go from 315 cases a day in July to over 1,600 cases per day by mid-August. These are not the circumstances under which we want to begin a season. Meanwhile, across the U.S., the Governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, is opening businesses up with masks required and wants to proceed with a football schedule. (As reported by Brent Pennington, Greenville South Carolina FishDuck Correspondent.)

“We want those things to happen,” McMaster said. “It’s a great part of America and South Carolina life.”

We also have to consider the natural inclinations of decision-makers at the highest level. Often, bureaucrats will take the safe way out to reduce their own risk profile. It’s easy for the county or the state to put the kibosh on events and activities, because if things turn out to be less serious later on, leaders can claim, “I was just trying to save lives.” Political leaders and university administrators cannot go wrong with that reasoning, which makes it the easier choice. The problem is … everyone else has to live with their decisions.

Judging by how the state of Oregon has operated concerning public safety lately, and the lack of preparation in terms of COVID-19 testing in the Eugene-Springfield area, I think the current situation shouts a CYA approach (i.e. cancellation of the season). That is not a political statement, but simply what I have observed and what I have seen written in the local newspaper.

Kevin Cline

Most fans in Autzen would want polite discourse as we have!

Speaking of which, let’s stick to our rules of 1) be polite and respectful, 2) keep it clean for the grandchildren reading and 3) no reference to politics. It is hard to veer away from politics when discussing the disease and our upcoming sports seasons, but this is a very sophisticated community of Oregon fans. If any group can do it — this one can. I learned a very hard lesson about the inclusion of politics in articles and have vowed to never do that again, nor allow even a hint of politics emerge in the comments.

My belief is that regardless of the election results, it is going to get even worse out there, and thus we need this GREEN REFUGE to hang out in, to veg-out for a bit each day by discussing Our Beloved Ducks. FishDuck is absolutely going to be that safe harbor in the future. Mr. FishDuck is adamant about keeping this one website Duck-Centric, as it is great fun to discuss the Oregon Sports topics of the day. The plans for the future are exciting for FishDuck, and while they may be delayed, the wait will be worth it.

What do you think the conference should do or should have done … and why?

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by Tom Corno

Andrew Mueller, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.

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mea culpa~ This is as good as it can get. Chance for back to back games vs Utah?

Lou Farnsworth

IF we DO have a season Charles, I concur with all your observations R.E. the schedule: it sets up very nicely for us. The bye before the Fusky game, especially, is a gift from the football gods. By far and away the toughest road game IS Cal. Utah this year is NOT going to be the same caliber. USC has the smell of a trap game, coming as it does on the heels of the Cal game, even if it is at Autzen. Slovis and friends will be wanting some payback from last years beat down.

But, will there BE a season? You have gone on record that there will not be one. You may very well be right. It will no doubt be a close call for the powers that be who make the decision. Personally, I think that we will have a season. But the way that Mullens phrased his comments has all the feel of someone who is parsing his words rather precisely for a possible future change of plans. In other words, Rob is not taking The Punt off the table.

In all honesty, can you really say we can guarantee safety? Or prosperity? If deaths are the measuring point, everybody failed. Who are we protecting? At what cost? If we wait, what does that really look like?

If we don’t wait, what does it look like?

Nobody wants to admit we really don’t know what we’re doing, because quite honestly, too many unpredictable events have thrown curve balls at this event.

We want to believe we are in control of this. LOL LOL

We’ve always known the future is murky. Now? Too many people have done too many things to wreck plans.

How long are we going to wait before we live again?

This is not living. This is running. BOTH strategies failed. (Yes the lockdowns showed we will not stop the spread, not one bit-otherwise, we wouldn’t see the havoc we’ve witnessed this past month).

I certainly hope every athlete recognizes they will ALWAYS be at risk. Always. Just like all of us. Vaccine or no vaccine.

Excellent topic and discussion today Charles, thank you. I too, don’t think there will be a 2020 CFB season (and I hate to even contemplate such a thought) for many of the reasons discussed today. Last year, the risk of playing football was getting hurt. This year the risk changed to getting hurt, sick, or dead.
People talk about a second or even third wave, but I liken it more to the tide. There are lots of waves in an incoming tide, and I think the tide is still coming in. I hope high tide gets here sooner rather than later, but fear it won’t happen till 2021.
I really feel for all the student athletes who will not get an opportunity to shine this year. They are being robbed of an eligibility year. The fans will be disappointed but we will (for the most part) get over it.


Sounds like Rob is doing the “shimmy, shimmy shake”.

David Marsh

Schedule released… Looks like Oregon will open against Colorado at home… That’s an easier start than at Utah.

No back to back home or away games… Which isn’t so bad I suppose.


Interesting. The game against the Beavers is the 4th of the season, @ Reser, right before the Huskies, @ home, @ Utah is the last game.

David Marsh

I know they said they wanted to create regional blocks of games to help lessen the impact of the virus…. Which would be the argument why to do regional games early in the year.

However, this argument doesn’t make much since as the schedules on the whole are rather non-sensical and don’t have much of a pattern.

Though Oregon opening against Colorado and then playing at WSU who will probably be in a rebuilding year as Leach is gone… Lines up well for games that are potentially more like warm up games.

Though never underestimate WSU … They have been a thorn in the conference for too many years.


This schedule looks pretty good for the Ducks. The 3rd game, ASU is on a Friday, as is the 8th game, at Arizona. The Ducks get their bye week between the Beavers & Huskies. I’d say the toughest run of the schedule is, Washington, @ Cal, USC.


Great points JonJ,
I think in the end CF is right. It would only take one lawsuit to erase any financial gain from a season.
Parents of the players would be the issue. A young man who feels invincible (and didn’t we all at one time!)
would not be worried as much as a parent would, if son actually got the covid. Especially a non-scholarship kid.

One other point, if an O lineman got it, how many other O lineman would be quarantined?
Same goes for any position.
The MLB are already cancelling/postponing games. Same could/will happen for hockey/nba etc.
Would probably happen for college football.

If it were up to me, I’d encourage old guys like me to stay home, and everyone else go about life as normal.
With or without a mask, until we had herd immunity.
But that’s why no one asks me! lol

Jon Joseph

VIOLA! Likely considered as a blessing by many, I have been locked out of the comment section for a # of days.

Here goes.

Opening at Utah. Come On Larry. Talk about NO respect for the defending conference champ and Rose Bowl winner. At the very least, the Ducks should not be required to open on the road and certainly not against a team looking for revenge.

What would be wrong opening at home against an already scheduled opponent like Stanford?

This is just further evidence that no matter how the Ducks carry the conference it will always be USC that stirs the drink.

As to today’s excellent column. ‘Liability’ says it ALL. The players are supposedly ‘student athletes,’ right? They are being asked to practice and play when there is a real possibility that students will not be on campus? The athletic department tail is wagging the academic dog.

OT – Patrick Chung, whose wife is pregnant, will be sitting out the 2020 NFL season. 5 of his Patriots teammates are also sitting out.

A prospective 2021 1st round draft pick from VA TECH has announced that he will not play in 2020 and will instead prepare for the draft.

The SEC announced a 10 game, conference only schedule. Let’s see, finally, how much true parity there is the SEC? And no SO CAR vs Clemson, FSU vs FL, etc.

If this season is played this fall, a 2L team could make the final 4 for the first time.

Thanks for the take Charles. Right now this season is on a wing and a prayer.


We punt to spring. Given the rise in Covid cases and a poor response to wearing masks in some places, it’s not feasible to have college football IMO. Having fans in the stands is a risk to public health and losing the gate is a huge blow to schools. Some schools won’t survive on TV revenue unless there’s revenue sharing in the conference. The NFL can survive without fans in the stands and exist on TV revenue. The NFL and the union can hammer out an agreement to cover Covid risk with the players. The players are making substantial money in a short term occupation. They can’t afford to a lose a year. College football players don’t get paid and don’t have union representation which means schools have a conflict between player safety and revenue. Player safety will win out.


In all respect I disagree ptdduck. In most situations between safety and revenue the money wins. As with most establishments that have reopened so far its work or lose your job, with minimal attention paid to workers safety.


College football players are not employees. College and universities have a broader mission than that of a profit seeking business. The health and welfare of the students and community is more important.


Normally I would agree with you but college football is big money for the schools with zero going to the players. Players are locked into the school due to the signing of the letter of intent and receiving a scholarship. Yes then can leave the program and give up their scholarship or transfer to another school but . . . . the bottom line is they do what they are told or loose out.

Notice that the students are not in the loop of the decision makers. They are not invited to the table. The people making the decision are those that have a job to make money for the school.

Money will win out here and safety will be reduced to make it justified. I really wish I was wrong and you are right but I don’t think it will be that way.


Colleges aren’t going to revoke scholarships if players opt out. And I don’t know how colleges limit Covid liability risk by having sports. Many schools are going to online learning in the fall. Not a good look to treat students-athletes differently than students.


I’m not trying to say that schools will pay football players because soon athletes will be able to earn their own money based on the laws that are being put into play these days and due to start down the road.

My point being that in the decision to play football this season or not, the overwhelming decision will be made base on money and safety will play second to it. Schools need money so they will find a way to play football this season and a national champion will be crowned.


I’m not making the argument here that players should get paid or have the ability to earn off the field. Just stating a fact. Student-athletes are students first. That’s how they will ultimately be evaluated by the schools IMO.


If there is a season it will be a disaster. There will be some teams that will have to forfeit games which will create voids that can’t be filled. The level of play will be compromised as well since some teams won’t have all their key players due to testing positive. No fans to create a home game atmosphere. This seasons over before it’s started. College football is just too big of a sport to be able to have a concise plan that every one would be on board with.
Most other sports have smaller venues and way fewer players, with the exception of the NFL to a degree.
We’re 7 weeks away from a proposed kickoff and no real plan in place.
I say forfeit the season, regroup next year when we may have a vaccine, and fans can renter stadiums. Lets do it right and not try and do it half way.

Santa Rosa Duck

I just read from a doctor at Johns Hopkins that he thinks that by the end of 2021 there will be a vaccine and enough doses to go around for the USA. Where does that leave the 2021 season?


Not a lot better IMO. Bleak times ahead for sports, the economy and all else.

With that being said, it’s a long time until Sept 2021 so lots of things can change. Right now everyone’s in the learning/coping stages and without past experiences to rely on, those in charge are having a hard time making decisions that work towards cohesiveness.
Hopefully there can be changes made that make coping with the virus easier.


I can’t say anymore than that I agree with everything you wrote.

Steven A

I don’t think there will be a season. Will the CA schools be allowed to play? If not, there goes the entire league. Then there is the domino effect, if it isn’t safe/allowed in certain states, why would it be in other states. All the Big 5 conferences have several states in their footprint and it is hard to believe all of the states in a conference will have the same Covid 19 rules. 
Litigation, or the threat thereof is no joke. If Congress passes a relief bill with liability protection, that might carry a lot of weight, although health issues should be the driving force of any decision.
The silver lining may be the momentum that Oregon has been building in recruiting might continue without a season, and the early looks at the 2022 class will pay off if there is no HS season this fall or next spring.


There are really just too many unknowns right now. I mean how many times this week alone have we heard a different take on how ‘rona spreads, precautions we should take, what hand sanitizers to use, do we use hand sanitizer, blah, blah, blah. Kind of like what a lot of us used to say when I was in the Corps; don’t believe anything until it happens, and when it does, question it.

Jon Sousa

Hmmmmm. Risk assessment.

We say that we don’t want athletes to be harmed by COVID-19, and of course that is true. But what are the chances? Young, very healthy people, who eat right and exercise, apparently have a very low risk of experiencing any long term bad effects of the disease. (We acknowledge the fact that we don’t really know what all the long term risks may be).

Both student athletes and fans die every year in automobile accidents that are related to getting to practices or the games, or something else football related.

There is a risk every time we put a team on a plane or bus for an away game (Ask Marshall). There is a statistical probability that our team won’t make it back alive. And yet we don’t worry about it. If we worried about everything that might happen to us we would be crippled to the point of not being able to leave the house… but of course staying at home has it’s own risks.

The point is that we cannot control all risks and we take those risks every day. We can say that we know someone who had a terrible bout with COVID. I can say that I have a personal acquaintance here in Oregon who was diagnosed with cancer just before the COVID shut down. Because we wanted hospitals to be able to handle an influx of COVID patients, almost all other “normal” operations were shut down and my friend was refused cancer treatment because of it. Her cancer has advanced so much in the last few months that she is probably beyond help as the difference in her appearance is striking. She is going to die because of COVID, not because she has it, but because it prevented her from other needed treatment.

Any fan who wants to go to a game has to know that SOMEONE in the crowd is COVID positive, and there is no way to know who that someone is. Each individual has to decide how comfortable they are with the risk.

Yes, NFL athletes are opting out. How many newly signed rookies are opting out? Probably the only ones who are opting out are those who have been in the league a few years and haven’t squandered there money, so losing one year of salary presents to them a lower risk than COVID does.

What do I thing the leaders are going to do with the PAC 12 season? Punt. Kick the can down the road. But I also think the season will be played, even if we only play against our division (5 games), and then a championship game. Apparently, we have the option of playing anywhere from 1-5 games against the other division, depending on how far we push the season start back… but that is where the punting comes in.

Fist thing we do …


It’s a communicable disease not a car. The only way to slow it down at this juncture is through social distancing and wearing masks. Football is a contact sport. Does it really make sense to have these kids spreading the disease throughout the community? How in the heck do you put 18-22 year olds in a bubble? Over 150,000 people have died so far.


As a fan, I would love to watch football. As a father, I want the kids to be safe. So many variables that come into play no matter what decisions are made.

Economically, the entire country is in serious trouble. Not to be a gloom and doom guy, but with GDP dropping precipitously, many companies will be forced to trim their workforce. Not a good situation for any of us….whether we are college sports fans, or parents.


I think Larry’s going to keep punting it until another conference makes a big decision, and then just follow the herd.

The one thing that I could see forcing the NCAA’s hand shut down the season would be a mass opt-out from the players across the board, but how likely does that seem? I can’t really tell, I just want college football in any capacity at this point. I don’t know what else there is to look forward to in the winter months of the PNW.


Umm…hockey! Heck, if you want to stick with the college theme, there’s always Oregon’s club team, which are actually pretty alright hockey players.


We sure don’t hear much about the hockey team. Even the Lacrosse team gets more press. I guess thats the cost of a “club” sport.


Well, I guess it helps that I’ve been playing hockey here for about 20 years now…so I’m a little more aware that we even have an ice rink in Eugene than most people seem to be, let alone that the Ducks do have a (club) team. Honestly I’m a little surprised more people don’t know about them. I mean sure, it isn’t the most popular sport around these here parts, but we’re all about the Ducks, and if you’ve (speaking to the masses now) never been to a hockey game, but like football, then you’re in for a treat. It’s a fast, exciting and violent sport.


No way, eh? Only a hoser would consider hockey to be spam. Perhaps, Canadian Bacon, but not spam.

Ask Quackcanadian; he’ll startin’ you ouht.


Totally agree that hockey is a fast, exciting and violent sport. Use to watch the San Jose Sharks, but I don’t consider them to be the most violent of the teams. Was fun to watch.

Jon Joseph

Because of the precarious financial situation, Larry and the Prez have no choice but to keep kicking the can down the road.

Santa Rosa Duck

Not sure that a season can happen. If we have a game scheduled against Utah on September 12, that is just 43 days away. When does formal practice start? I am bombarded with every study that shows that the Covid 19 is not serious, no wait, it is really serious. How do decision makers at the University and the Governor make these decisions? I have seen a friend of mine, healthy and age 32 taken down by this Covid 19 and weeks later he is just now getting better. If I had to make the decision, I would error on the side of caution and cancel the season.


I personally tend to agree with the “it’s money driven” thought process, however, there’s so much more in play right now. Forgive the somewhat politicalness of this next line, but it does come into play here; given the current state of affairs around the world at this point, would we still be asking the same question of ‘to play, or not to play’ if the current state of civil unrest weren’t happening?

I honestly think that we’re in this weird, perfect storm of events right now that’s causing everyone from the top right down to the common individual to both yern for, and to fight for some semblance of normalcy even though what’s probably the right thing to do would be to, as you put it, punt.


I guess maybe I didn’t quite explain it like the thought was going through my head…

No, football (or any other sports for that matter) don’t have anything to do with any of the social issues currently happening, but where I do see the connection, so to speak, is that if it were just the ‘rona virus, just the protesting, just the politicizing of one and/or the other then no, I don’t think there would be a whole lot of discussion as far as what should be done and what should be delayed, however, with both happening at the same time and so many people already having cabin fever, the two together kind of create a tinderbox of emotion that fuels a lot of people to want to jump the gun and essentially pretend that neither one should be impacting their lives the way it currently is. I think a lot of people are already tired of both, but both together exacerbate an already difficult time.

So, are the two directly related? Nope, they aren’t at all, but inadvertently they’re both adding to the fire of one another.

On a different note, I will always encourage a differing opinion. Opposing views helps keep the extreme sides in check. There’s an old quote I firmly believe in…”I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Evelyn Beatrice Hall


***doesn’t have anything to do with…

Evidently I missed my edit window…sorry.

Agreed Charles. This season being played? Follow the $.

Having athletes on campus blows an ever bigger hole in the student-athlete model.

Perhaps it is time for athletic departments to stop sitting on the razor’s edge? To re-work T9 not to include football scholarships? To return golf, tennis, etc. to club sports?

$ is not evil. The love of $ is evil. CFB has sold its soul to the media powers that be. How often today are any ‘big games’ played in the daylight?

Wipe out 1 CBB tourney and 1 football season and many athletic departments will be truly and not just functionally, insolvent.

Where are the NCAA Reserve Funds? Much of it gone to settle law suits.

The UCLA athletic department is afloat today only by borrowing from the university general funds. In other words, the taxpayers of CA and not big boosters are keeping UCLA athletics afloat,


Ouch. I just cut my finger, and yep, I’m bleeding green & yellow. I’d love for the season to kick off on Sep.19 in Utah. But I just don’t see how it can. Micro adjustments are being made, but they aren’t enough, they’re still running up the middle into a stacked defense.

Any entertainment that I’d derive from watching the Ducks play, would be tinged by guilt. Day after day, NFL players are opting out of playing, leaving NFL salaries on the table, because the risk, primarily to their families, is just too high.

Jon Joseph

I’d love for the season to kick off on 9/19 with the defending champion being given the courtesy of opening at home. Instead, let’s match up the conference champ against the S champ right out of the gate.

Another Pac-12 ducking.


BDF’s assessments are similar to mine. There will be a PAC12 season, because money and the future of collegiate sports is hanging in the balance. TV audiences, but few fans at live events. Probably a further delay of 1-2 weeks to kickoff. Possible in-season schedule adjustments. Bottom line is I do not see the season completely canceled from the start with no football whatsoever in 2020. Like so many areas of our life, stay tuned in and deal with uncertainty and changes.


I think the conference should have set up a plan of testing, tracing and isolation the likes of which no state or sport has seen. The problem is that would have taken leadership and this conference has pitiful leadership.

This has been my take for a while, but I also think Oregon could have led on this. Oregon knows how to take care of its student athletes. They have the best medical, nutrition and academic supports out there. I am shocked the Oregon Athletic Department hasn’t announced an effective plan.

This leads me to agreeing with Charles, the season is over. As much as I want to see football, I don’t want anything to happen to our student athletes that they didn’t sign up for. Sad times indeed!


I agree that schools could do a lot more to keep the students and fans safer but a plan is needed, leadership is needed. All of which will take money and in a year when that is in short supply its hard for the schools to “spend like they have it”.


Analysis of how much money could be made, saved if proper testing, tracing and isolation programs would be put into place are astounding. This definitely goes for college football. You have to spend money, most of the time actually, to make money.

It seems only the NBA has truly embraced this policy, but it would be nice to Oregon lead on how college football could do this. I did read an article where Cristobal said he is pleased with the testing Oregon is doing. I suppose I should take this as Oregon is doing the right thing, maybe there is hope!

Jon Joseph

The NBA has the ability to gather in one spot for the games. This definitely helps the cause. Already, a number of MLB games have been CODID canceled.


Even Edmonton isn’t safe as Alberta is our Florida up here, so I hope the hockey teams stay clear somehow.


Interesting questions Charles. I take a slightly different view of the outcome and think it will revolve around the age old theme – money. Yes, all you have to do is “follow the money”.

I think the games are going to go on regardless of health ricks to players and fans. Some shuffling of the cards will be made to make it look like “we did our part” but money will be the winner in the end.

I base this on the pushing down of the responsibilities to do the right thing from the very top on to the next layer down. And then the responsibility continually being pushed down to the next lower lever until finally it is up to the fan themselves to make the decision. All the top levels that could have taken the responsibility are just making smoke and flashing mirrors, finding minimum adjustments and sliding the cards around to make things look different but the bottom line is there will be games played and their will be a National Championship crowned for the 2020 season.

After all no one at the level above the fan wants to miss out on all that money. All the upper levels that could have taken the responsibility, won’t. They will find the words to CYA and push the responsibility to the next level down. After all its big money talking here.

Fans and players beware, come hell or Covid-19, the pursuit of money will find a way to come out on top so “let the games begin”.


Yes, but with all the opportunity for lawsuits so far, how many have you seen or heard about ?? I have read about only one so far.


It will be interesting to see if they can “pin the tail on the donkey” or maybe it will be the “slip and slid” that wins the day.

Jon Joseph

IF there is one thing we can count on in this world today, it is that the sharks (LAWYERS) will be circling.


Very true, and they are the only ones that win.