The Pac-12 announced its partnership with Quidel Corporation to produce rapid coronavirus testing among athletes in a press conference Thursday. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said the results of each test will take no longer than 15 minutes to come back.
The partnership has not affected the start date of Pac-12 football, but Scott said the conference will “constantly reevaluate” the situation and follow what public health authorities allow each school to do. Scott said the Pac-12′s priority in its return to college football will be to align seasons to allow for postseason and cross-conference competition, like the Rose Bowl.
In terms of basketball, Scott is “hopeful” that daily, rapid testing can open up the possibility to start competition before Jan. 1.
Scott said he is in favor of the NCAA delaying the start of the basketball season in hopes that the new Pac-12 testing breakthrough will allow the conference to start at the same time as the others. NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavvitt said the college basketball season is scheduled for tip-off on Nov. 10 but that the NCAA will provide further information and a potential new start date by mid-September.
The Pac-12 and Quidel partnership was made possible recently when Quidel doubled its manufacturing capacity, Quidel CEO and President Doug Bryant said.
The company has not been in contact with other athletic conferences. Once Quidel is able to further increase its production capacity, it can supply other universities.
The price of the tests was kept confidential.
Dr. Kim Harmon, Section Head of Sports Medicine for the University of Washington, said an increase in the numbers and efficiency of testing will allow the conference to catch positive cases before an athlete becomes infectious. It will also reduce the burden of contact tracing, allowing universities to determine when someone tests positive quicker.
“It will prevent [COVID-19] spread in our athletic footprint,” Harmon said.
Testing was the biggest hurdle for the Pac-12 to return athletic competition. A bubble-like scenario, seen in the NBA and NHL, was not an option for the conference.
“It doesn’t resonate well with university leaders,” Scott said.
To return to the field, Scott needs a high degree of confidence that Pac-12 athletics will not “encourage the spread” of coronavirus. The partnership with Quidel is a big step in that direction.
The new testing supply and protocol has not yet been discussed with universities. Once it is, the Pac-12 can devise a plan on how to move forward with bringing sports back.