LOS ANGELES – Pac-12 Conference Schools like USC and UCLA have been hard at work over the past few weeks, preparing to get back on the pitch.
Pac-12 will be the last of the Five Power Conferences to return to the field on November 7 amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
While the players at the conference’s 12 member schools are eager to get started, their parents, including USC Football mother Sahaja Douglass, worry that they may not be present to see it all unfold.
“Football is a big family,” said Douglass. “It’s really a way to connect and express love and togetherness as a family. And it’s just a tradition we’ve had for most of us since our children were three years old.”
It’s a tradition he hopes will not be affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Because even though the conference won’t allow fans from the general public to attend live matches until at least January, it released a statement regarding parents and other family members.
“Pac-12 confirms that the Pac-12 Group CEO on Sept. 24 approved student-athlete families to be able to attend football matches this season, subject to approval by local public health authorities and in accordance with NCAA guidelines,” the conference said in a statement.
It became a hot topic of conversation among USC football moms and parents as well as family members throughout the conference.
“Moms of football, we have a chat group, and we are quite active in it,” explained Douglass. “A mother said, ‘Hey, why don’t we write a letter?'”
So Douglass put pen to paper, drafted a letter to include an online petition written to the governors of the six states represented on Pac-12, along with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, asking to be allowed into the stadium to watch their son kickoff. .
The petition now has more than 4,000 signatures, all from people who believe it can be done safely.
“I don’t want to be callous. We understand COVID is a very serious disease,” said Douglass. “But we feel this can be done in a way that doesn’t increase the risks that already exist for people.”
In an outdoor stadium such as the Coliseum, which houses about 77,000 people, he said family members would have plenty of room for social distancing, wear masks and agree to temperature checks.
However, with LA County still having the strictest coronavirus levels in the state, the purple level, Douglass knew it was going to be an uphill battle.
“I just have to believe they have everyone’s best interests at heart and their plates are completely full, but I hope they make this a priority, that we get approval,” he said.
USC head coach Clay Helton explained in his post-training press conference last week that while he understands the parents’ concerns and desire to be there firsthand, the decision ultimately rests with the state.
“We are fortunate to be in the situation now where we will have the opportunity to play, and I know now it is a city and state decision,” he said. “This is not a Pac-12 or USC decision, and cities and states are doing what is best for the community.”
“Hopefully that will change,” continued Helton. “I know I’m a parent, I have a son who is in high school, and I want to see him play, as long as it’s safe.”
Douglass says he and other Pac-12 moms are willing to do anything to make it happen. For now, he held on to the belief that a decision would be made soon.
“Football has been restored, I have a shirt,” he said. “Now, I just need to be there to cheer on my son.”
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