USC football: ‘Please let us play’

NOT YET: In this 2019 file photo, USC Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis looks to pass during the second half of a game against the UCLA Bruins at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Calif. In California, due to coronavirus-inspired restrictions, the Trojans are not allowed to play. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/Tribune News Service

LOS ANGELES — With college football carrying on elsewhere across the nation while programs in California remain unable to practice, USC football players made a public plea on Tuesday, asking Gov. Gavin Newsom in a letter to loosen restrictions surrounding college sports and “please let us play.”

“We have sat by for two weeks watching teams across the country play the game we love safely,” sophomore quarterback Kedon Slovis wrote directly to Newsom on Twitter. “Most schools have a fraction of the resources that our school and conference have provided to play safely. You are the only thing holding us back.”

The letter praised Newsom for his leadership in previously listening to athletes’ voices and even offered support for the Pac-12’s initial, science-based decision to postpone the football season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But in light of a recent testing breakthrough and a conference-wide partnership that allows for rapid, daily antigen testing of the virus, the players wrote, “it now appears that the science and technology have turned in favor of playing.”

As it currently stands, college football teams in California can barely practice, let alone actually kick off a season. While the NFL opened in Los Angeles on Sunday in an empty new stadium, the city’s college teams remain unable to gather as a full team, practice indoors, or practice anywhere in groups larger than 12.

“The last month I’ve watched our team train under tents, outside, in a make shift weight room,” offensive coordinator Graham Harrell wrote on Twitter. “Even with the postponement of our season they have shown up everyday. They have done EVERYTHING asked of them and simply want an opportunity.”

While those restrictions remain in place for USC, UCLA, Stanford and California, in addition to the two schools in Oregon under similar restrictions, any prospect of setting a date for the Pac-12 football season remains out of reach.

It was that sobering realization that led to the Trojans to speak out in a coordinated effort on social media, just as the Big Ten inches closer to announcing a possible return date for its own delayed season. Once it does so officially, all eyes will inevitably turn to the Pac-12 as the last remaining Power Five conference left on the sidelines this fall.

The Trojans took the lead in applying that political pressure on Tuesday.

“Governor Newsom, our request of you is that you work with us — urgently and purposefully — to find a path forward for us to resume competitions later this fall, so that we can have the same opportunity as other teams around the country to play for a national championship,” the letter read. “We respect the careful and cautious approach you have taken to college athletics, and we have the utmost confidence that we can partner together to quickly develop a plan that allows us to compete in a 2020 fall football season.”

Even if restrictions are loosened soon, it’s still unclear whether a fall season would be tenable. Conference officials are awaiting further results of a cardiac impact study with Harvard, while conference coaches have asked for at least a full month of practice time ahead of the season’s start.

But the patience of Pac-12 players appears to be waning.

“Please let us play,” Trojans receiver Amon-ra St. Brown wrote to Newsom on Twitter. “We want a chance.”

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