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Pacific-12 Conference cuts non-league games this fall in latest coronavirus setback for sports

The West Coast association follows similar action by the Big Ten Conference to limit travel and exposure for its athletes and staff.
Image: USC vs Notre Dame
USC running back Markese Stepp (30) runs with the ball for a touchdown during NCAA football game action between the USC Trojans and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana on Oct. 12, 2019. Notre Dame defeated USC 30-27. John Mersits/CSM.(Credit Image: (C) John Mersits/CSM via ZUMA Wire) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)John Mersits / Zuma Wire/Cal Sport Media via AP Images file

The Pacific-12 Conference has eliminated non-league football games for the upcoming season, marking the latest sports casualty of the raging coronavirus pandemic.

The San Francisco-based group, which includes elite academic institutions such as the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University, announced Friday night that its football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball teams would play only conference opponents this autumn.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports continues to be our number one priority,” league Commissioner Larry Scott said in a prepared 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.”

Other Pac-12 schools include UCLA, the Universities of Southern California, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Colorado and Arizona State, Washington State and Oregon State Universities.

The Pac-12 announcement came one day after the Big Ten said all of its fall sports would be conference only.

And the Ivy League went a step further on Wednesday, announcing that all of its fall sports would be shelved for 2020.

"Competitive sports are an integral part of the educational experience for our student-athletes, and we will do everything that we can to support them in achieving their dreams while at the same time ensuring that their health and safety is at the forefront,” Oregon President Michael Schill said.

The Pac-12 withdrawal from non-conference football will have a ripple effect across the gridiron landscape.

Both USC and Stanford play high-profile annual games against the University of Notre Dame. Those Fighting Irish games would have been on Oct. 10 against the visiting Cardinal and Nov. 28 against the host Trojans.

Southern Cal, perhaps the Pac-12's most famous program, had been set to play perennial powerhouse Alabama in a massive non-conference game on Sept. 5, in Arlington, Texas.

Oregon, the most successful Pac-12 team of recent years, had been scheduled to play Ohio Sate University on Sept. 12, in Eugene. That game had been eliminated by the Big Ten's action on Thursday.

Utah plays its state rival Brigham Young University in an annual, gridiron grudge match dubbed the Holy War. That game was set for Sept. 3, in Salt Lake City.

And Cal was scheduled to play the first football game in the new Allegiant Stadium, home of the relocated Las Vegas Raiders, on Aug. 29 against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.