CU Buffs fans, Larry Scott says he feels your pain.
Well, to a point.
“I do have a lot of empathy for Colorado,” the Pac-12 commissioner said on a Zoom call with media late Thursday morning in advance of the league’s football championship game Friday.
As to how that affects the elephant in the room — do the 4-1 Buffs, ranked No. 25 by the College Football Playoff committee, still have a game this weekend or not? — Scott said several times during the call that he assumed CU would not be playing anyone this weekend, in Los Angeles or otherwise.
The Buffs’ fate will largely be determined by USC’s COVID-19 testing results Thursday, and Scott said he expects to see those results by mid-day.
“I expect sometime in the next few hours there’ll be (clarity if CU is) on or if they’re not on,” the commissioner explained. “But I’m fully expecting, at this point and time — both USC and Oregon have been in very good shape and I’m fully expecting that the game is going to go forward as planned.”
The Buffs sent a football equipment truck toward Los Angeles on Wednesday morning. As of noon Thursday, it was in northern Arizona and will be told soon whether to keep going west or to turn back toward the Flatirons.
“That (decision) was made by our operations people with (CU) in terms of the practicalities,” Scott said. “I’m not really up to speed on the details of that, or who’s paying for what.”
The league on Sunday, per Pac-12 protocols, declared the Buffs (4-1, 3-1 Pac-12) as the “stand-by” team to represent the South division in the league title game. Oregon (3-2, 3-2) was the other “stand-by” team representing the North.
USC (5-0, 5-0) and Washington (3-1, 3-1) were decreed as South and North division champions, respectively.
The Pac-12 set up a coordinated cross-divisional weekend slate of games, initially pairing the Buffs and Ducks together in the regular season finale this upcoming Saturday night. But with a twist: The game would be played in Los Angeles, in case either team had to fill in for their respective first-place division teams in the championship tilt.
The league didn’t designate an alternative opponent for either CU or for Oregon if one of the teams was forced to abandon the Saturday game and get bumped up into the championship.
The Huskies, having already been forced to cancel their game with the Ducks last weekend because of coronavirus positives, wound up pulling out of the title game Monday because of COVID-19 protocols.
That put Oregon into Friday’s championship game against the Trojans, and left CU without an opponent.
By league rules, the Buffs could have scheduled a non-conference foe, as they did over Thanksgiving weekend, but also had to leave themselves the flexibility to immediately cancel that game and come to Los Angeles in case the Trojans also had to recuse themselves from the game because of the coronavirus.
That’s left first-year coach Karl Dorrell in the unusual and unenviable position of spending this week preparing his Buffs to play Oregon or USC or, more likely, no one at all.
Rather than schedule a game against a local opponent — the CSU Rams, most notably, are idle this week — the Buffs announced Monday evening that they would not play a non-conference game for the forthcoming weekend.
Scott inferred Thursday that CU potentially coming to Los Angeles to ultimately not play or sitting at home not playing was a Buffs issue, not a league one.
“(CU’s got) a new coach, a lot of optimism, a lot of bright spots and a lot of frustrations about having so many games canceled,” the commissioner said. “But I will say that there was also a lot of, I think, admirable flexibility and nimbleness shown by our leadership — again, the coaches, ADs, league office — when it appeared CU was going to get multiple cancellations, we allowed non-conference opponent scheduling. Obviously, CU chose not to take advantage of that. But they had the option.”
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