As voluntary on-campus workouts begin, Pac-12 football teams feel facilities are safest place for athletes

The restart of Pac-12 football began Monday, as programs across the conference open their training facilities to players for voluntary workouts.

It began Monday for Washington State, where there have been 27 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Whitman County.

It began Monday for Arizona State, where there have been 18,692 confirmed cases in Maricopa County.

It began Monday for Utah, where cases are rising in Salt Lake County, and for Oregon State, where there are no new cases in Benton County.

Jon Wilner’s Pac-12 Hotline is brought to The Seattle Times through a partnership with the Bay Area News Group. Wilner has been covering college athletics for decades and is a voter in the basketball and football AP polls, as well as the Heisman trophy. He shares his expert analysis and opinions on the conference for the Pac-12 Hotline.

It doesn’t yet begin for the California schools, but they are expected to welcome players back in coming weeks as local health restrictions ease.

No two municipalities are the same and no two football programs are moving in lockstep. They’re following the broad guidelines set by the Pac-12 while applying whatever local twist is necessary.

But this much is clear:

The Pac-12 made the smart move opening its facilities to the athletes despite the rising case counts and public angst and uncertainty about the pandemic’s next move.

In fact, the Pac-12 made the smart move because of the rising case counts and public angst and uncertainty about the pandemic’s next move.

The athletes are safer on campus.

The more time spent in the facilities, the less time spent everywhere else.

“With gyms opening up, you can’t control that,’’ USC coach Clay Helton said. “You don’t know who’s going in and out and what’s happening in that environment.

“And you’ve got some kids with eight or 10 people in their homes, and you don’t know where they’re going. Are they going to bring (the virus) into the home?

“When we bring the players in, it’s a controlled environment.”

From a distance, the optics look sketchy: Why allow athletes back on campus for workouts when the campuses are closed?

Well, the campuses aren’t closed. They never were. Thousands of students have been living in dorms and apartments across the conference since the mid-March shutdown.

Many are international students who couldn’t get home; some simply didn’t have a safe family environment to which they could return.

And even now, there are students participating in activities on campus.

“The athletes aren’t the only ones here,’’ Helton said. “There are kids here for ROTC, fine arts, research. It’s not just football.”

The athletes aren’t confined to their homes and off-campus apartments. They’re out and about, engaging in whatever facets of life are available to the community at large.

Those communities include some of the hottest coronavirus spots in the country.

They can go to the movies or restaurants. They can eat fast food. They can congregate for makeshift pass-and-catch at a local park with chopped-up surfaces.

Or they can head over to the neighborhood gym for a 45-minute workout.

“If you don’t do it for them, they’ll do it on their own somewhere,’’ said Rob Scheidegger, Washington’s associate athletic director for health/wellness and head football trainer.

“We want to be proactive.”

The health-and-safety protocols in place at athletic facilities are tighter than those around town. The physical distancing is better. The surfaces are cleaner.

USC’s players, like all those in the Pac-12, will be tested for Covid-19 upon their arrival at the facility. Face coverings will be required. There will be daily temperature checks and health evaluations.

The Trojans have created two workout areas, Helton said — one indoor and one outdoor, each covering 11,500 square feet.

Eight players will be allowed in one area at a time, with a strength coach and a trainer. That’s it — no assistant coaches, just the eight players and two staffers in an area covering one-quarter of an acre.

After the workout, the area will be disinfected for an hour.

Every Pac-12 school has undertaken similar measures.

The facilities are safer than the local gym.

They are safer than the local anyplace.

“There are two pieces to this,’’ said Scheidegger, who serves as UW athletic department’s liaison to King County health officials.

“It’s not just the how, the resources that we make available and the facilities. It’s also the why. It’s what we can do through the process to look at the student-athlete’s total health.

“We’ve tried to identify the kids that are struggling, regardless of what team they’re on, and develop a plan to provide them with what they’ve missed.”

The decision to open workout facilities — not just in the Pac-12 but across college football — was about more than the workouts.

— It was about providing athletes who had offseason surgery with the proper environment and oversight for rehabilitation.

— It was about providing athletes on the lower end of the socio-economic chain with proper nutrition.

(Many have been eating too little, or too much fast food. When workouts conclude, players will receive a load of healthy snacks on their way out the door.)

— And it was about providing the athletes with a sense of normalcy to benefit their mental health.

One athletic director told the Hotline that anxiety has soared among athletes at his school.

Helton sees it, too.

“They so much want to engage with their teammates and get into a routine,’’ he said. “They are creatures of routine.”

How this ends — whether there’s a full season or no season — is anyone’s guess.

But the decision to open doors for athletes wasn’t merely a necessary first step to an on-time kickoff. It was the prudent move for the health and safety of the athletes.

And the way the case counts are surging across the west, the Pac-12 football facilities could soon be regarded as the safest place in town.

Jon Wilner:; on Twitter: @wilnerhotline. Jon Wilner has been covering college sports for decades and is an AP top-25 football and basketball voter as well as a Heisman Trophy voter. He was named Beat Writer of the Year in 2013 by the Football Writers Association of America for his coverage of the Pac-12, won first place for feature writing in 2016 in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest and is a five-time APSE honoree.


UN envoy hopes for new Syria talks and warns of dire economy

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. special envoy for Syria said Tuesday he hopes that talks on drafting a new constitution for the country can be held in late August, warning the war-torn nation has plunged into economic crisis with rising fears among its people.

Geir Pedersen told the U.N. Security Council that a long-delayed third meeting of the constitutional committee in Geneva is important but can’t solely address the realities the Syrian people are facing, which require “real diplomacy among the key international players with influence.” He noted that five international armies still operate across Syria and many countries have “active measures” in place, including sanctions, in the country.

Last month, Pedersen called for talks between Russia and the United States to help end the more than 9-year-old war, saying the two major powers could play “a key role.”

But the U.S., which supports Syria’s opposition, and Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar Assad, remain at odds, with their ambassadors sniping at each other at the council meeting.

Pedersen said it’s easy to understand the “new level of alarm at the dramatic collapse in economic conditions,” pointing to the depreciation of the Syrian currency during one recent week by a rate more than in the previous nine years, and continuing price volatility.

The U.N. envoy said new factors have joined underlying structural problems — infrastructure, fiscal and monetary mismanagement and corruption — to push the economy “to the brink.” He cited the banking crisis in neighboring Lebanon, the impact of the pandemic and sanctions by the United States and the European Union.

Pedersen said the sanctions target government-affiliated individuals and entities “and also restrict activity in the financial, banking, oil and gas and military sectors as well as exports and multilateral lending to and investments in Syria.” Further U.S. sanctions that kick in starting Wednesday are aimed at deterring foreign business activity with the government.

Against this backdrop, he said, some Syrians have taken to the streets to protest peacefully in Sweida, Daraa and Idlib against a range of grievances.

In southwest Syria, he said, Russian mediation averted “what was set to be a major violent confrontation centered around the town of Tafas.” But he said there is concern there have since been additional security incidents and tensions “that might result in renewed escalation of violence.” He said this area has “broader geopolitical tensions” with active cells of the Islamic State group and reports of Israeli airstrikes inside Syria again this month.

In the last rebel-held area in northwest Syria, Pedersen said a Russian-Turkish cease-fire “is by-and-large holding.” But he pointed to worrying signs including increased shelling and reinforcements by both sides, the first reported pro-government airstrikes in three months, and more people fleeing the violence.

Pedersen called for a nationwide cease-fire and urged “a cooperative, targeted and effective approach” against extremist groups that protects civilians, including to prevent a resurgence of IS, which is continuing attacks in an around the central desert.

But cooperation wasn’t evident in statements to the council from the U.S. and Russian ambassadors, reflecting the huge gap that still must be bridged to end the war that has killed over 370,000 and displaced millions.

U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft said maintaining the cease-fire in northwest Syria is “vital for the achievement of a political solution to this conflict,” stressing the U.S. is committed to that goal.

“We will continue to reject any attempt by the Assad regime and its allies to use military force, obstruction, or disinformation to bypass U.N. efforts to restore peace in Syria,” she said.

Craft said the Trump administration’s new sanctions taking effect Wednesday are aimed at deterring “bad actors” who aid and finance the Assad regime’s “atrocities against the Syrian people while simply enriching themselves and their families.” She said they contain strong provisions to ensure humanitarian assistance isn’t impacted.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia countered that “Idlib is controlled by terrorists” and foreign occupation must be ended. He said Ù.S. statements confirm the purpose of American sanctions “is to overthrow the legitimate authorities of Syria.”

Nebenzia said U.S. and EU sanctions, which were extended in May, not only cripple Syria’s economy but hinder humanitarian assistance.

“Exemptions don’t work,” which is “confirmed by the humanitarian workers themselves,” he said.


2021 Pro Bowl to be played at new Las Vegas stadium

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Pro Bowl is headed to Las Vegas.

The NFL announced Tuesday that the 2021 all-star game will be played at the new Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Sunday, Jan. 31 — one week before the Super Bowl in Tampa.

Plans include what the league calls a week-long celebration of football, and will include NFL FLAG Championship games and a Pro Bowl skills showdown in which players compete in a variety of events. There will be community and charity initiatives as well.

“We look forward to partnering with the Raiders and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to bring the excitement of Pro Bowl week to our Las Vegas fans and community for the first time,” said Peter O’Reilly, NFL executive vice president of club business and league events.

The game was played in Orlando the past four years.

All NFL activities during Pro Bowl week will adhere to the latest public safety guidelines set by medical and public health officials, as well as operate in full compliance with all local and federal government regulations, the league said.

The game has gone back to the traditional AFC versus NFC format and will have 88 players voted in by fans, players and coaches.


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Coal union seeks order protecting miners from coronavirus

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A union representing U.S. coal miners asked a court Tuesday to force the federal government to take unspecified measures to protect them from the coronavirus.

The petition asked the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for an expedited order against the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. It was filed by the United Mine Workers and the United Steelworkers unions.

If MSHA fails to issue an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases that would be legally binding on all mine operators, it would put the lives and health of tens of thousands of miners in “grave danger,” the petition said.

“The situation confronting miners is urgent,” the petition said. “Miners have largely been designated as ‘essential’ workers and thus are currently working at mine sites across the country. Further, as government-imposed stay-at-home orders are lifted and demand for mine-produced resources increases, more miners will return to work at pre-pandemic levels.”

An MSHA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The petition said mine ventilation regulations are not designed to prevent the spread of a virus. UMW President Cecil Roberts said in a statement that social distancing measures are meaningless in underground coal mines, where air is circulated over long distances.

“Working in a mine is very different from working in any other workplace,” Roberts said.

UMW spokesman Phil Smith said there have been 10 known cases of union members who have contracted the virus, with no fatalities. The majority of U.S. coal is produced at nonunion mines.

While MSHA continues to perform mandatory inspections and serious accident investigations, the agency has suspended some on-site mine visits and other safety and fatality initiatives under President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration.

MSHA inspectors are not trained to recognized or address conditions that pose an imminent danger as a result of COVID-19, the petition said. The UMW wrote letters to MSHA in March and May raising the potential issue of the virus in mines but the agency refused to act, it said.

“It’s time for our federal agencies to start taking their responsibilities to workers seriously,” said United Steelworkers’ International President Tom Conway. “We needed an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases at the beginning of the pandemic, and we still need one now.”

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.


Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at and


Trump administration takes Keystone dispute to Supreme Court

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Trump administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to revive a permit program that would allow the disputed Keystone XL pipeline and other new oil and gas pipelines to cross waterways with little review.

Earlier this year, a Montana judge suspended the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit program when environmental groups seeking to block construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline argued the permit process allows companies to skirt responsibility for damage done to water bodies.

The permit program, known as Nationwide Permit 12, allows pipelines to be built across streams and wetlands with minimal review if they meet certain criteria.

Canadian company TC Energy needs the permit to build the long-disputed pipeline from Canada across U.S. rivers and streams. Industry representatives said U.S. District Judge Brian Morris’ ruling blocking the program could also delay more than 70 pipeline projects across the U.S. and add as much as $2 billion in costs.

Morris ruled that Army Corps officials in 2017 improperly reauthorized the program, which he said could harm protected wildlife and wildlife habitat.

Last month, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied an emergency request to block Morris’ ruling filed by the U.S. government, states and industry groups.

On Monday, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco asked the Supreme Court to do what the 9th Circuit court wouldn’t: block Morris’ ruling and let the permit program operate again while the lawsuit plays out in court.

The government’s application to the court says Morris shouldn’t have blocked the program, the which has been in effect since the 1970s, and the Army Corps and private companies “rely on it for thousands of activities annually,” the solicitor general wrote.

“The district court had no warrant to set aside NWP 12 with respect to Keystone XL, let alone for the construction of all new oil and gas pipelines anywhere in the country,” Francisco wrote.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement that the Supreme Court should reject the Trump administration’s request.

“Pipelines like Keystone XL are a disaster waiting to happen,” senior attorney Jared Margolis said in the statement.

In May, TC Energy built the first piece of the disputed oil sands pipeline across the U.S. border. But with Morris’ ruling on the permit program, it would be difficult for the company to complete the $8 billion project.

The 1,200-mile (1,900-kilometer) pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska was stalled for much of the past decade before President Donald Trump was elected and began trying to push it through to completion.


PGA Tour heads into 2nd week during the return to golf



Site: Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Course: Harbour Town GL. Yardage: 7,099. Par: 71.

Purse: $7.1 million. Winner’s share: $1,278,000.

Television: Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Golf Channel-PGA Tour Live), 3-6 p.m. (Golf Channel); Friday, 3-6 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3-6 p.m. (CBS Sports).

Defending champion: C.T. Pan.

FedEx Cup leader: Sungjae Im.

Last week: Daniel Berger won the Charles Schwab Challenge.

Notes: The RBC Heritage typically is held the week after the Masters and is known for its easy vibe after the first major of the year. Now it is the second week back in golf’s return from the COVID-19 pandemic. … The top five players in the world are in the field for the second straight week. Jon Rahm again has a mathematical chance to overtake Rory McIlroy at No. 1 in the world ranking. … Bernhard Langer from the PGA Tour Champions is playing again. He won in 1985 a week after he won the Masters. … The tournament had been held in April every year since 1983. Previously, it was in March. When it began it 1969, it was held the last weekend in November. … In three of his last four events, McIlroy went into the final round at least three shots from the lead and failed to break par. … The last four winners at Hilton Head had never won on the PGA Tour — Pan, Satoshi Kodaira, Wesley Bryan and Branden Grace. … The tour did not report any positive tests for the new coronavirus among players who took the charter flight from Colonial. … Players at Hilton Head who are 50 or older include Langer, Vijay Singh, Davis Love III and Jim Furyk. Phil Mickelson, who turned 50 on Tuesday, is not playing this week.

Next week: Travelers Championship.





Site: St. Augustine, Fla.

Course: The King & The Bear at World Golf Village. Yardage: 7,279. Par: 72.

Purse: $600,000. Winner’s share: $108,000.

Television: None.

Defending champion: New tournament.

Points leader: Mito Pereira.

Last week: Luke List won the Korn Ferry Challenge.

Next week: Utah Championship.




Last tournament: Inbee Park won the Women’s Australian Open on Feb. 16.

Next tournament: Marathon Classic on July 23.

Race to CME Globe leader: Inbee Park.




Last tournament: Jorge Campillo won the Qatar Masters on March 8.

Next tournament: British Masters on July 22.

Race to Dubai leader: Patrick Reed.




Last tournament: Ernie Els won the Hoag Classic on March 8.

Next tournament: The Ally Challenge on July 31.

Charles Schwab Cup leader: Bernhard Langer.




Korean LPGA: Kia Motors Korea Women’s Open, Bears Best Cheongna, Incheon, South Korea. Defending champion: Yeon Da Lee. Online:


Michigan seeks to reach 300K students about deceased doctor

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — The University of Michigan is attempting to reach more than 300,00 former students, encouraging them to speak with investigators from a law firm it hired to lead a probe into a deceased doctor accused of sexual abuse going back decades.

The Ann Arbor school said Tuesday that it is contacting former students who were on campus from the mid-1960s through the early 2000s to ask them to call WilmerHale if they experienced abuse by the Dr. Robert E. Anderson or have information that may be relevant.

“When it completes its investigation, WilmerHale will issue a public report,” the letter from University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel states. “The report will include a full accounting of Anderson’s conduct, a discussion of any institutional failings that may have allowed him to harm others, and recommendations for preventing what Anderson is alleged to have done from happening ever again.

“The university will not influence or interfere with the investigation, nor will the university receive WilmerHale’s report until it is released to the public.”

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel previously reached out to several thousand former student-athletes who were on campus when Anderson worked as a team doctor at the school.

Anderson was employed by the university for decades until his retirement in 2003. He died in 2008.

The university announced in February that it was investigating allegations of abuse against Anderson, and it offered counseling to anyone affected by the alleged misconduct.

The revelations at Michigan echo high-profile allegations and investigations of sexual abuse made by patients of sports doctors at other universities, including Michigan State and Ohio State.

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Senate panel authorizes subpoenas in new Russia probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Judiciary Committee swiftly moved forward on Thursday with its investigation of the Justice Department’s Russia probe, voting to allow dozens of subpoenas over Democratic objections that the move was an effort to help President Donald Trump’s reelection.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the committee chairman and a close ally of the president, was defiant as he held the vote. The committee rarely moves forward on subpoenas without bipartisan support, and hasn’t done so in more than a decade. Democrats said the move could affect relations on the panel for years to come.

“You are trying to stop me from doing something I think the country needs to do, and I’m not going to be stopped,” Graham said, responding to the committee’s top Democrat, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein, a longtime member of the committee who has often worked with Republicans, had said she never thought the committee would reach the point where they couldn’t agree on subpoenas.

“I assure you we are not going to be deterred. If we have to do it by ourselves we’ll do it by ourselves,” Graham said. “Somebody has to be held accountable for what happened here, and we’re going to be in the accountability business.”

The vote empowers Graham to issue more than 50 subpoenas of current and former Justice Department officials. Graham said the panel would be looking at how the department went “so off the rails” as it investigated Trump and his campaign for almost three years.

Republicans have turned their attention to a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general last year that found multiple errors and omissions in the applications the FBI submitted to conduct surveillance on a former Trump campaign aide in the early months of the investigation. Republicans, and Trump himself, have repeatedly said they believe the department was conspiring against the president before and after the election.

Graham has said he also wants to look into the case of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who admitted lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition period regarding U.S. sanctions. After earlier prosecuting Flynn, the Justice Department reversed itself and moved to dismiss the case last month, saying that Flynn’s contacts with the diplomat were appropriate and that the FBI had insufficient basis to interview him.

Democrats have argued that the errors in the surveillance do not invalidate the Russia investigation, which ultimately found that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election but found insufficient evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy with Trump’s campaign. The internal Justice Department report said the FBI was justified in opening the investigation and found no evidence that it acted with political bias.

Democrats said the subpoenas won’t affect any real change, but simply revisit the contentious probe one more time.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said the authorization for subpoenas won’t fix flaws with the surveillance, “and will not overturn the results in the Russia investigation, or change the IG’s conclusions.”

Among the officials the Judiciary Committee might subpoena are former FBI Director James Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan. The list also includes some current officials who dealt with the investigation, including Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Graham’s investigation is one of several diving into the Russia investigation, a subject that has followed Trump throughout his presidency. The Justice Department has its own internal probe separate from the inspector general’s investigation, and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is also looking at the matter. That panel approved its own subpoenas last week as Democrats and even some Republicans encouraged the committee’s chairman, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, to focus on other issues such as the coronavirus pandemic and the economy.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee offered multiple amendments before the subpoena vote, many of them encouraging Graham to call witnesses who were involved in Trump’s campaign. The GOP-led panel turned back each one, with Graham saying that special counsel Robert Mueller already had two years to investigate what happened in 2016. He said he would be willing to call Mueller himself to testify, or one of the prosecutors who worked with him, if Democrats wanted.

“I promise you, you will have your say,” Graham said to the Democrats.


Newspaper publisher resigns after printing racist cartoon

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The publisher of a family-owned Missouri newspaper has resigned after publishing a racist syndicated cartoon depicting a black man stealing a white woman’s purse while hailing funding cuts to police.

Bill Miller, Sr. on Thursday told The Associated Press he has stepped down as publisher of the Washington Missourian but is still the paper’s owner. The newspaper’s co-owners, his daughters, resigned Wednesday in protest.

The cartoon published Wednesday shows the white woman asking for someone to call 911, but the masked black man says, “Good luck with that, lady … we defunded the police.”

The cartoon was published amid protests across the nation against police brutality and following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Some protesters are pushing to “defund the police” — a wide-ranging catch-all term for shifting law enforcement resources — over the death of Floyd and other black Americans killed by law enforcement.

Miller wrote in a column that the cartoon was meant to convey opposition to defunding police but was “racially insensitive.”

“It was poor judgement on my part and for that I sincerely apologize,” he wrote.

Miller’s daughters, Susan Miller and Jeanne Miller Wood, denounced the cartoon as racist and wrote in a published apology that its publication hit close to home because it was their father who chose to run it.

“We cannot continue to work for an editor who fails to see the pain this causes and we believe this issue is too important not to take a stand,” they wrote.