USC football: Clay Helton confirms potential for conference-only 2020 season

Clay Helton acknowledged the potential for USC football's 2020 season to be conference-only. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Clay Helton acknowledged the potential for USC football's 2020 season to be conference-only. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The Pac-12 has discussed the possibility of a conference-only 2020 season, USC football head coach Clay Helton said.

The reality of USC football’s 2020 season may involve canceling the non-conference schedule.

Head coach Clay Helton confirmed that much on Monday during the first of the Pac-12’s planned webinars with coaches from around the conference.

Familiar voice Pete Arbogast asked Helton, Stanford head coach David Shaw and Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich the question concerning the solution instituted during World War II when the college football schedule was disrupted by war and the Spanish Flu. Teams played only their conference schedule to limit their travel around the country.

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Now facing uncertainty around restarting college football amid the coronavirus pandemic, Helton said the possibility of playing conference games only is one of the potential structures for the 2020 season that have been bandied around during Pac-12 meetings.

That would mean USC’s slate would no longer include tough matchups with Alabama and Notre Dame or the far more manageable meeting with New Mexico.

Instead, the schedule could include as many as 11 games with Pac-12 opponents, including Washington State and Oregon State, who the Trojans were supposed to miss this year.

Helton reiterated multiple times that he expects to know more about the timing and structure of the plans for college football in six to eight weeks.

Shaw summed it up simply: “I think where we are is the definition of a fluid situation.”

The trouble is pinning down potential scenarios. Can college football allow players to take the field at the Coliseum if it’s not safe enough for fans to be in the stands? That was another question posed to the coaches without a particularly satisfying answer.

Rolovich joked that they’d have to spend less time in practice on silent counts.

Helton brought it back to player safety. With all of the conversations around a return to college football putting health and safety as a top priority, the Trojan head coach is confident that concern will rule govern the decision-making process.

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