Eugene, Ore. -- The Pac-12 conference has entered into a groundbreaking partnership with medical testing giant Quidel which may usher in conference sports earlier than originally anticipated.
In August, the conference opted to postpone all athletic competition until January 1st, 2021 citing uncertainty regarding the coronavirus and the lack of testing infrastructure that could make leadership feel at ease about a restart. Quidel's newest test, which can produce a COVID-19 test result in as quick as 15 minutes, has been hailed as a landmark achievement especially in the sports world.
"This is a very important and significant step," said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott in a webinar. "But there’s other considerations that will go into our return to play."
The price of the tests was "confidential", according to Scott, but he did mention two key components to the agreement. The first was the procurement of tests while the second was a research study that will be collaborative between the Pac-12 and Quidel. During the press conference, CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd reported that the Pac-12 and Harvard University will be conducting extended studies on Myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, and its' connection to COVID-19.
"I don’t think we need absolute clarity," Dr. Doug Aukerman, who is on the Oregon State and Pac-12 Medical Advisory Board, said of the connection between the two. "Certainly there has been enough discussion that we are aware of the cardiac potential. However, with daily testing, being sure we can identify people as quickly as possible...we can do an adequate cardiac work up after the fact."
Quidel's ability to test all athletic programs within the Pac-12 is a welcome sign for the conference who has quietly been working towards a return while other conferences have remained in headlines with contradictory reports being filtered through various news outlets. Currently, other schools that are playing football right now are using Quidel tests, but this specific partnership is the first of its' kind between the company and a collegiate conference.
Quidel CEO Douglast Bryant says that the company is adding four more manufacturing lines for tests and is doubling capacity, with the hope that by November, they will have the capacity to provide tests to all NCAA conferences, should they ask.
But Commissioner Scott also said a return to play comes down to local public health officials, citing multiple times that restrictions in Oregon and neighboring California present roadblocks even if the conference were ready to go.
"Even if we were ready and wanted to start tomorrow, we couldn’t," said Scott.
Back in May, Oregon Governor Kate Brown said through her spokesman that they would not do anything to put Oregon or Oregon State athletics at a competitive disadvantage.
As of right now, all athletic competitions remains postponed until January 1st in the Pac-12, but Scott reiterated that timelines could change.
"We’re gonna let the data and the science drive us."