The Pac-12′s presidents and chancellors voted Thursday to begin its football season on Nov. 6. Each team will play seven conference games, and the two best will meet in the conference championship on Dec. 18.
The decision put a huge smile across junior wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown’s face.
“We’re all ready for a season,” St. Brown said. “I’m ready to rock.”
Sophomore quarterback Kedon Slovis isn’t bothered by having to play in an empty stadium. He’s ready for the Trojans to bring urgency, energy and touchdown celebrations to any sideline.
“The team with the most energy you can see on the sideline is which team has more juice and which team is ready to play the other team,” Slovis said. “Obviously, we’d love to have the fans there to feed off their energy.”
The Trojans will officially gather for a team practice on Oct. 9, leading into a four-week training camp. Until then, they will continue to work out in cohorts of 12 or fewer, as they have been since July.
“We’ve been training for two months now, working on soft tissue, working on joints, preparing for a training camp,” head coach Clay Helton said. “For a six-week period of time to be able to prepare for a season, I love where our team is right now. We’re a very happy football team.”
The Quidel rapid-testing machines arrived on campus the week of Sept. 21 and could be ready to use as early as Sept. 28. USC student-athletes currently get tested twice a week by Color.
Helton said the COVID-19 infection rate drop, Quidel partnership and study of players' hearts to test for abnormalities is ultimately what led to the Pac-12 football restart.
Another factor — St. Brown’s idea to write a team letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
St. Brown’s brother Equanimeous and his Green Bay Packers had kicked off on his TV when St. Brown realized he should be playing, not watching. So he gave Helton a call and asked what the Trojans could do as a team to get their season back. They decided on a letter to the governor.
The team voted to send the letter before the Big Ten made a public decision about its season. USC released its letter on Sept. 15, and the next day the Big Ten voted to play. After that, Slovis said he was fully confident the Trojans would return.
One week later, the Pac-12 decided to play. Helton said the initiative taken by St. Brown and the rest of the team gave him goosebumps.
“I’m extremely proud of their voice, sharing their voice and how they did that in the professional, respectful manner,” Helton said.
At this point, the status of defensive lineman Jay Tufele and offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, who decided to opt out of the season before the Pac-12 announced a 2020 return, has not changed.
St. Brown has been training for his return to the field since his surgery for a sports hernia back in March before the football team was sent home due to COVID-19.
“My mindset was that this is a time for me to separate and get better and really make a difference,” St. Brown said.
Slovis also took advantage of the three months off, rehabbing an elbow injury from the 2019 Holiday Bowl.
According to Helton, St. Brown has never been in as great of shape as he is now, and Slovis is working as hard as any quarterback in the country.
“They don’t wait for work,” Helton said. “They find work.”