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‘Is It Even Possible to Play 30 Sports Simultaneously?’

Good morning.

Today, we’re starting with a piece from my colleague John Branch, who’s based in the Bay Area, about a new project taking a close — really close — look at how things are playing out in college sports:

As shocking as it was back in March to see American sports close down so suddenly — the N.B.A., N.H.L., Major League Baseball shuttered within days of one another — we knew that the trickier move, maybe the bolder move, would be to bring them back.

No segment of the sports world has the logistical challenges of college athletics.

We have covered those angles all summer — the coronavirus outbreaks on football teams, the cancellations of (most) fall seasons, the recent interference by a president demanding that Big Ten football be played. (Why the Big Ten and not the Pac-12? Maybe you did not take Swing States 101.)

[Read more about what’s been happening with college football and the Pac-12.]

Play football or not? It is not that simple.

To show just how difficult it is to navigate a major college athletic program through these historic times, The New York Times is embedding with one, virtually and on campus, for the coming months: The University of California, Berkeley.

Why Cal?

It is a big-time program in a so-called Power Five conference, the Pac-12. It has 30 sports, 850 athletes and a $100 million budget. It has had a recent N.F.L. No. 1 draft pick (quarterback Jared Goff), but may be best known for success in Olympic sports, like swimming and rowing.

It sits in a major metropolitan area in the country’s most populous state and has a history of social activism, another current pulsing through our culture these days.

And because we asked, and the university said yes.

What does this mean? Like so much of 2020, the photographer Jim Wilson and I will make it up as we go. We are sitting in on meetings, hanging around campus, diving into the range of budget implications. We are talking to coaches about trying to keep a team together when it cannot be together and when the calendar provides no structure. We are talking to athletes about disappointment, fear and hopes.

Our first story helps set the scene — a major university that decided in recent weeks to teach all courses online, an athletic department where fall sports have been wiped up (maybe taking $50 million in revenues with them). Most Cal athletes are home. Only 150 or so are around campus, doing voluntary workouts between online classes. More winter-sport athletes are trickling in, like swimmers, because the city of Berkeley just loosened restrictions on the use of pools during the pandemic.

While some major college programs are plowing ahead with plans (for now) to play this fall, like those in the Southeastern and Big 12 conferences, Cal has plenty of shutdown company in California.

[Meet members of a historic University of California freshman class.]

Schools like Stanford, U.C.L.A. and Southern California, all part of the Pac-12, too, will not have fall sports and have gone mostly to online classes. The Mountain West Conference, with schools like Fresno State and San Diego State, also shut down its competition schedule.

The best hope is for the fall sports to shift their schedules to after the first of the year, which could make for a complicated winter and spring for all the schools.

Is it even possible to play 30 sports simultaneously? And what if school remains online only? Should the fields be open at a renowned university when the classrooms are not?

We will follow along as Cal tries to untangle the web. What is the impact on the budget, on the coaches, on the student-athletes? What are the ripple effects on academics, training, recruiting, eligibility, facilities, hiring, fund-raising and mental health?

Those stories, we hope, will be told in the coming weeks and months. They will give an inside-out view of the world through one athletic department — or, really, all of them.

[Read the full story.]


  • Last month, amid the first rolling blackouts across the state in nearly two decades, energy grid managers tried desperately to increase the power supply by tapping an increasingly important part of California’s power puzzle: Batteries. [The New York Times]

Read about why experts believe a “virtual” solar power plant is essentially inevitable in Los Angeles. [The New York Times]

  • A San Leandro police officer was charged with manslaughter for shooting and killing a Black man in a Walmart in April. The encounter between the officer, Jason Fletcher, and the victim, Steven Taylor, unfolded in less than a minute. [The New York Times]

  • Los Angeles County allowed hair salons and barber shops to reopen indoors at 25 percent capacity, as long as they’re following other safety precautions. Malls will still have to remain closed. [The Los Angeles Times]

If you missed it, here’s what to know about California’s second major attempt to reopen. [The New York Times]

And here’s our interactive map of coronavirus cases in California. [The New York Times]

  • California has hired a firm based in Minnesota to build a new coronavirus test data system after problems with the old one caused an alarming backlog. [The Sacramento Bee]

  • United Farm Workers — which represents about 2,000 of the 3,000 people who work at a Foster Farms plant in Merced County where a Covid-19 outbreak killed at least eight people — threatened to call for a boycott of the huge chicken company over its handling of the crisis. [The Fresno Bee]

  • President Trump directed federal officials to identify “anarchist jurisdictions,” or Democratic cities, so the government could withhold funds. No California cities were on the list of examples, but he has long railed against the state’s leaders. [The New York Times]

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her visit to a San Francisco salon was a “setup.” Fox News posted security footage of Ms. Pelosi at the salon, which under San Francisco rules was supposed to be closed, and caused a firestorm among conservative critics. (No, this is not the plot of a “Veep” episode.) [The San Francisco Chronicle]

  • Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, settled in California and proceeded to do about the most Hollywood thing imaginable: Strike a big deal with Netflix. [The New York Times]

  • In case this is useful to you, here’s what to do if a bat gets into your house. [The New York Times]

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.




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