Pac-12 cancels fall sports. What does it mean for local athletes, coaches, fans?

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USC plays in the Pac-12 conference. Players and coaches faced tough news this week as the conference decided to postpone all sporting events for the rest of the year. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW

The Pac-12 conference has decided to postpone all sporting events for the rest of the year. That means no soccer, no volleyball, and no football.

USC football coach Clay Helton says, “I'm disappointed and sad for our players and coaches for the amount of hard work that they put in, in preparation for a season. [I’m] sad for our student population that's having to deal with a pandemic, and it interfering with the college experience right now, and what they're having to deal with.”

USC’s rising star quarterback Kedon Slovis says, “We all kind of thought it was coming to a head at some point. But it was really sad to see that we knew that we were not going to be able to play anymore.”

This cancellation of fall sports is a public health decision.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Seth Gamradt represents USC in all health and safety-related issues at the Pac-12. He says, “Everything points to this being a benign illness in the young people in the collegiate age group, especially in the elite athletes, but it doesn't have to be. There have been some cases that have cropped up around the country of athletes who've had COVID and recovered, who have been noted to have myocarditis. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle that can come after a flu illness or after a cold illness. That can place the heart at risk in the future.”

That risk is too high, Pac-12 health officials say. It’s too much of a gamble to have a player recover from COVID, end up with an enlarged heart, and then sustain a big hit on the football field.

Not only are athletes affected, but fans and marching band members.

Bryant Chang plays trumpet in the USC marching band. He says, “I've been [in] band for all four years of college. So this is very bittersweet for me because I was really looking forward to this last year.”

Kate Johnston also plays trumpet in the USC marching band. She says,
“It's also really sad just because we've spent this whole summer online, and I've been doing nothing. And now I have to do more of nothing. And at first I was like, ‘Okay, well at least I'll have band.’ Because they said at first we were going to do a social distance band. And I was like, ‘That's some stability, that's still going to be really fun.’ But now that's not happening.”

There will be financial impacts too, from lost ticket revenues to TV deals and sponsorships.

Mike Bohn, USC’s Athletic Director, says USC alone is looking at tens of millions in lost revenue. “At USC, the football enterprise represents 80 to 85% of our revenue, and obviously the donations that are tied to that are factored into that as well.”

Seasonal jobs that won't be available this year for both students and lower wage workers who take tickets, sell concessions, and provide security.

The Pac-12 is hoping that the fall slate of sports could be played in spring 2021.

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Host:
Jarrett Hill

Producers:
Christian Bordal, Jenna Kagel

Reporter:
Benjamin Gottlieb