The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on sports schedules, nowhere more so than at the collegiate level, where games haven’t been played since mid-March and may not happen again this year. Arizona Wildcats teams have already lost all non-conference competition during the fall season, including three football games in late August and early September.
One of the teams the UA was supposed to play, Portland State, was really relying on the money it was going to receive for a Sept. 5 visit to Arizona Stadium to help balance its budget. And it still hopes to be compensated for the game even though it won’t happen.
“Just from a survival standpoint, this is super important to us,” Portland State athletic director Valerie Cleary told The Oregonian on Wednesday.
The Vikings were set to earn $950,000 for games at Arizona as well as Sept. 19 at Oregon State. Those “buy games” that FCS-level schools regularly play against FBS programs.
Arizona would have to pay PSU $750,000 to cancel the game under normal conditions, but the game contract includes an “Act of God” clause if the game can’t be played because of things like war or a natural disaster. Whether that applies here is uncertain, particularly since the UA is still scheduled to face Pac-12 teams.
“It’s not like, ‘Hey, because of COVID we wound up canceling all of our games,’” Cleary told The Oregonian. “It’s that, ‘We as the Pac-12 are canceling just THESE games.’ It does leave it open to interpretation. There isn’t a lot of case precedent yet.”
Cleary said she’s been in regular contact with officials at Arizona and OSU. UA athletic department officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Right now, everyone is going to do everything they can to preserve collegiate athletics at their institutions in some way, shape or form, whether it’s protecting budgets, salaries, personnel, scholarships, all of that,” Cleary said. “You definitely want to play nice. But we also have to understand that this is $950,000 out of our budget.”