Pac-12 field logo

The "Pac 12" logo is displayed on the field during a football game between visiting Washington and Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, on October 19, 2013. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images/TNS)

LOS ANGELES – When the Pac-12 voted unanimously to delay football and all other fall sports until the spring, a lack of rapid-response testing for the novel coronavirus was central to the conference's decision.

Less than a month later, a major testing breakthrough may have already quelled those concerns, leaving the door open for a potential return to Pac-12 sports sooner than initially expected.

The Pac-12 announced Thursday that it will provide daily COVID-19 testing for athletes across the conference, after entering into a partnership with Quidel Corp., a diagnostic health care manufacturer of FDA-approved rapid tests. Those tests, according to Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, would allow for results to be read within 15 minutes, essentially eliminating risk of spreading the virus during athletic competition.

Quidel's testing machines should be distributed to schools by the end of September.

Scott called the access to rapid-testing "a game-changer," but warned that a return to competition involved several other considerations, including approval from state health officials. Six Pac-12 schools, including USC and UCLA, currently don't have approval to return to contact practice.

Still, in light of the news, Scott said he's now "hopeful" there could be a pathway for Pac-12 sports to begin before Jan. 1.

"We've gone about return to play in a very measured and thoughtful way," Scott said. "(We've said) all along we're going to let the data and the science drive us and that we're going to have to have a high degree of confidence that by returning to play, we're not encouraging the spread and putting student-athletes at higher risk as a result of that competition. This ability to have daily testing with immediate results is a huge step forward for us."

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