Pac-12 reaches agreement for rapid COVID-19 testing

The Pac-12 has reached an agreement with a diagnostic testing company that will allow each of the conference’s 12 schools to perform daily, rapid COVID-19 tests on athletes who play close-contact sports.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott on Thursday called the deal with Quidel Corporation a “game-changer.” He said the ability to test athletes daily and receive results in 15 minutes could lead to the conference getting back on the football field and basketball court sooner than the Jan. 1 date set when it postponed its fall sports season on Aug. 11.

“This is a very important and significant step, but there are other considerations that will go into our return-to-play plans,” Scott said.

The Pac-12′s six schools in California and Oregon are still restricted from holding full practices because of state mandates put in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. However, the professional football teams in California have been given permission to proceed with normal preparations for a season that starts Sept. 13.

“Even if we were ready to start tomorrow we couldn’t,” Scott said. “There’s more to be done for sure in terms of working with health officials.”

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The Pac-12 said tests and Quidel’s Sofia 2 testing machines are expected to be delivered to the conference’s schools by late September.

Doug Bryant, president and CEO of Quidel Corporation, said the company has agreements with several individual schools that are using its rapid tests. He declined to say which schools, and added the partnership with the Pac-12 is unique to other deals because the company will be providing the conference with the capacity for daily COVID-19 testing.

Scott said when the conference made its decision to postpone fall sports it did not think it would have access to this kind of rapid testing until November at the earliest.

“This ability to have daily testing with immediate results is a huge step forward for us,” Scott said.

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The Big Ten postponed fall sports the same day as the Pac-12. While the Big Ten has been getting crushed with criticism from all sides, including a lawsuit by Nebraska players demanding its decision be overturned, the Pac-12 has presented a more unified front in support of postponing.

Scott said he hoped the Big Ten and Pac-12, Rose Bowl partners, can align their return to football to provide postseason opportunities for their teams.