Dear Trojan Family,
This is a very exciting day for the Trojan Family and our student-athletes, coaches, and programs. This global pandemic has tested us all, and it’s an incredible feeling to know we will have Trojan football and more this year. With today’s vote to resume competitions in football, basketball, and winter sports by the Pac-12 Conference presidents and chancellors, our opportunity has finally arrived.
You can read my statement here and the full announcement from the Pac-12 on the resumption of competitions here, which includes the complete medical recommendation from the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee. It is vitally important to us as a conference that we publish our medical report.
I’d like to share some insights into the process that led to this outcome.
On September 3, the Pac-12 announced an innovative, rapid point-of-care daily testing partnership with the Quidel Corporation. Immediately upon learning of this game-changing development, we reached out to Pac-12 leadership and re-engaged our contacts in the offices of the governor of California and Los Angeles County to revisit elements of their guidance that were restricting us from moving forward with team practices and, in effect, competitions. Undoubtedly, the partnership with Quidel was the key to unlocking our ability to resume competitions, address health and safety concerns, and lift public health restrictions, so we moved with great expediency to advocate for our student-athletes once it was finalized.
I also want to provide a brief overview of what changed in the last six weeks since the Pac-12 voted on Aug. 11 to postpone athletics practices and competitions through the calendar year. At that time, the Pac-12’s Medical Advisory Committee outlined three conditions that needed to improve for contact practices and competitions to commence:
- increases in testing capacity and frequency across the Pac-12;
- reductions in community prevalence of COVID-19 in Pac-12 communities; and,
- opportunities to further study potential health impacts of COVID-19, specifically related to cardiac concerns
In the latest Pac-12 Medical Advisory Committee recommendations, they noted three critical developments:
- community prevalence and percent of test positivity has improved in most Pac-12 locations and in the United States;
- the aforementioned partnership with Quidel Corporation for daily testing for higher-contact sports; and,
- the Pac-12 standardized cardiac monitoring across the conference and confirmed each member institution has the resources to conform to those standards
With those conditions met, the Pac-12 Medical Advisory Committee concluded that we could resume contact practices and competitions, and USC’s own medical experts agreed.
We are pleased that just three weeks from the day of the Quidel announcement, the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors voted to resume competition, California public health officials committed to revised college athletics guidelines, and LA County reaffirmed their adoption of the state guidance. It is a tremendous source of pride for us that our football players’ letter to Governor Newsom catalyzed the movement that culminated in today’s result.
In the spirit of transparency and the greater good during a global public health crisis, we release our COVID-19 testing results each Friday for those student-athletes actively participating in on-campus workouts. Even without daily testing, in our latest report we announced a second consecutive week with zero positive test results from our twice weekly testing protocol and just 18 total positives in 1,855 tests administered since mid-June – that’s a remarkable positivity rate of just 0.97%. Our student-athletes deserve enormous credit for their commitment to themselves, their teammates, and our protocols. With daily testing and the demonstrated efficacy of our health and safety protocols, we are optimistic that we can navigate the football season without major disturbances.
As passionate Trojans fans, I know that it was difficult to watch the college and NFL football seasons kick off all over the country. It was for me, too. However, we’ve also witnessed significant disruption to the college football season elsewhere with postponements and cancellations that are damaging to the student-athlete experience. Despite enormous pressure and scrutiny, the Pac-12 and its medical experts remained measured and disciplined in the return to play process. Collectively, we never strayed from our commitment to trusting the science and following the advice of our health professionals. I truly believe history will remember us for taking a thoughtful and reasonable approach that genuinely prioritized the health and safety of the student-athletes.
Unfortunately, throughout our many discussions with state and county public health officials, it became abundantly clear that one condition of returning to play is that no fans will be permitted inside the Coliseum for our games this season.
In the coming days and weeks, more information will be shared about our team schedules and additional sport seasons. But there’s no time to rest as we can now officially embark on what I know to be our shared mission – to win Pac-12 Championships and compete for National Championships.
It is a tremendous honor for me to be your Director of Athletics, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support during an immeasurably difficult time. The Trojan Family has demonstrated its greatness once again in our most desperate time of need. Our brightest days are right in front of us.