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Today's the day for the Pac-12

Update> 5pm PT announcement. Let's go! 

Original article> The ACC, SEC, Big 12, American, Conference USA and Sun Belt are playing. All the independents are playing, or at least trying to. The Big Ten is on its way back, and the MAC and Mountain West are right behind them. This leaves the Pac-12. How is it possible that the first conference to secure daily coronavirus testing could be the last to return to the field -- or not return to the field this fall at all? It's a tale that could only happen in Pac-12 country, where, after securing a daily testing partner way back on Sept. 3, the conference and the California government got caught in a failed game of telephone on whether or not the schools were allowed to play. The California schools believed their state government wouldn't let them; the government believed the schools were free to play. Most alarming is that the conference never bothered to ask until the Big Ten formally returned last week. Now, throw in raging wildfires that have understandably taken everyone's attention for the past few weeks, and you get to where we are today. It is Sept. 24, and Pac-12 presidents are just now voting on whether or not they'll play this fall. Where does the vote stand?  It's fair to say there is cautious optimism around the league, emphasis on caution. FootballScoop reached out to representatives from six schools, and the response was a mixed bag. After all, no one can truly know what's in the mind of those 12 presidents and chancellors beyond the individuals themselves. The main reason for trepidation centers around the leadership in the UC system.

Assuming a return is approved, when would the season start? Obviously, this depends on what sort of agreement the Pac-12 presidents come to, but most estimates come down between Oct. 31 and Nov. 14. (That means, best case scenario, the Pac-12 would be a week behind the Big Ten despite having a 3-week head start.) It's possible an Oct. 31 re-start could include some schools but not all (glares at California), possibly playing non-conference games against Mountain West opponents. Nov. 14 seems to be the absolute latest the Pac-12 could start a season with even a hint of legitimacy. That would provide six games -- no off weeks -- leading into the College Football Playoff's Selection Sunday on Dec. 20. One league source who believed the conference would approve a return-to-play also believed the Pac-12 would not approve practices until the week of Oct. 5. (Again, glares at California.)

However, we can't emphasize enough how truly up in the air the entire situation is. Just today, Boulder, Colo., implemented a 2-week ban on gatherings of any size for college-aged persons in the city.

We know when the Pac-12 could play, but when will the conference be ready to play?

The West Coast lockdowns being what they were, FootballScoop spoke to Pac-12 sources on Thursday who said their players only recently went through their a team workout in a real, college weight room for the first time in five months.

Of course, milage may vary from player to player how much individual work they've done in the past five months, but that is a real concern that must be top of mind, assuming the conference does move toward a fall season.

What happens if the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors don't approve a re-start?

Catastrophic would seem to be an understatement.

Locally, the conference would likely receive little blowback. Most Pac-12 states aren't playing high school ball this fall anyway, and the conference will still be the best option for high-level college football for most elite West Coast players.

But it would be hard to see how the conference would recover from this in the short term from a national perspective.

This conference is already a distant No. 5 among the Power 5 leagues -- they've watched the Playoff from home four of the past five years -- and sitting out the fall while everyone else plays could be the final nail in that coffin. Jon Wilner, the San Jose Mercury-News writer who doubles as the Pac-12's public conscious, argues the conference would be better off not playing at all in the 2020-21 academic year than going it alone in the winter or spring.

Fair or not, passing on a fall season would cement to most everyone east of the Rockies that the Pac-12 just cares about football less than the rest of the country.

So, there you have it. However high the stakes were for the Pac-12's Aug. 11 vote to shut down the season, they're three times as high today. And even that may be an understatement.