The Big Ten Conference shut down its football season Aug. 11. The Pac-12 shut down immediately thereafter, giving the impression it was following the Big Ten’s lead.
That impression has shifted since. In the intervening weeks, the public voices of the Big Ten have mostly come from its celebrity coaches — Penn State’s James Franklin on ESPN’s College GameDay Saturday, for example — talking about the conference’s lack of communication, lack of information, lack of apparent leadership, and lack of cajones in its handling of the shutdown.
From Big Ten administration, there has been vague talk of planning and consulting and efforting, but nothing more and not much of even that.
The Pac-12, meanwhile, has announced what commissioner Larry Scott called “a game changer’’ that could “point the way to a COVID-contained future for our society at large.”
He was talking about a partnership between the Pac-12 and a biotech company, the Quidel Corporation, announced Sept. 3, which will put equipment and a process in each of the league’s athletic facilities to allow daily testing for COVID-19 and daily results.
Quidel’s test involves a swab sample, 15 minutes for the sample to incubate, and then just 10 seconds for the result to process. The system has been installed in a group of urgent-care clinics in California, and found to be accurate (if you have COVID-19, the test will show it) 97% of the time.
It means two football teams can take the field knowing, with as much certainty as is reasonably possible, that no one on the field has the disease. It means any positive test can be contact-traced within a much smaller, more manageable set of variables.
Scott didn’t say if and when Pac-12 football and other fall sports would resume. Six member schools — USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State — are prohibited from even practicing now because of local-government pandemic restrictions.
But Scott did say the conference’s medical advisors didn’t know testing of this type was possible when it made its recommendation to shut down.
“Without the ability to test daily (the advisors consider returning to play) too high a risk,’’ he said. “This will allow us to look at it through a very different lens.’’
Scott said he remains in frequent contact with Big Ten commissioner, Kevin Warren, and called it a “high priority” for the Pac-12 to align its season with the Big Ten, particularly as it pertains to “traditional postseason opportunities.’’ That means, of course, the Rose Bowl.
Finally, there is some tangible news from the Big Ten. ESPN is reporting that the conference’s medical subcommittee presented new testing options, that weren’t available at the time of the shutdown, to the presidents and chancellors Saturday.
Those options include “four rapid response antigen tests now on the market.’’
A conference source told ESPN, "It's light years different than it was five weeks ago."
LNP | LancasterOnline contacted Quidel on Friday to ask if they’ve been working with the Big Ten, and got the following email response:
“Quidel appreciates your inquiry into our Sofia SARS Antigen test and our research initiative with the PAC-12 Conference. We are working to fulfill the needs of our current customer base while also considering some potential partnerships that will work to better understand asymptomatic testing among certain populations, which can ultimately benefit our communities.”