In the moment, Rob Mullens and Gene Smith probably didn’t give much thought to the standard force majeure clause included in the contact they signed Oct. 12, 2012.


The Oregon and Ohio State athletic directors finalized the high-profile future home-and-home football series the week after the second-ranked Ducks walloped Washington 52-21 en route to a 12-1 finish in Chip Kelly’s final season and the Buckeyes blasted Nebraska 63-38 on the way to a perfect 12-0 finish to Urban Meyer’s first season.


Nearly eight years later, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has turned out to be the "unforeseen catastrophe" the force majeure clause was made for.


The Big Ten announced Thursday that it will attempt to play a conference-only schedule this fall.


That means the defending Pac-12 champion Ducks will not get to host the defending Big Ten champion Buckeyes on Sept. 12 at Autzen Stadium in a rematch of the two programs that played in the inaugural College Football Playoff championship game.


"I appreciate Gene Smith reaching out to share the Big Ten’s announcement," Mullens, who served on the playoff committee with Smith, said in a statement. "We agreed to have ongoing discussions about the options for rescheduling the Oregon home game in our series."


Oregon is scheduled to play at Ohio State on Sept. 11, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. The Ducks currently have at least three nonconference opponents scheduled each year through 2026.


During a teleconference with reporters, Smith said he is now "very concerned" about whether there will be a college football season this fall as positive tests for coronavirus continue to spike in many parts of the country.


"People need to follow the protocols and give our kids a chance to compete," Smith said.


Based on "medical advice," the Big Ten also will have its other fall sports — cross country, field hockey, soccer and volleyball — play conference-only schedules.


"This decision was made following many thoughtful conversations over several months between the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, Directors of Athletics, Conference Office staff, and medical experts including the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee," the conference’s statement read.


Other marquee nonconference football games impacted by the Big Ten’s decision include Michigan’s Sept. 5 visit to Washington.


Ohio State announced Wednesday evening that it is pausing voluntary workouts for seven sports, including football, following the results of its most recent COVID-19 testing.


It was part of a bleak news cycle for college athletics with the Ivy League punting on fall sports, Stanford announcing plans to drop 11 sports and the ACC postponing the start of its sports calendar to Sept. 1.


According to a report by the Athletic, the Pac-12 is expected to follow the Big Ten’s lead and adopt a conference-only scheduling model for 2020.


Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said last week the conference has contingency plans in place, including a conference-only slate or pushing the season to the spring.


The Ducks’ attractive home schedule includes the Sept. 5 opener against FCS power North Dakota State and a Sept. 19 game against Hawaii.


Oregon’s 2020 nonconference contracts include a scheduled payout of $300,00 to Ohio State, $650,00 to North Dakota State and $1 million to Hawaii.


The force majeure language in the deals doesn’t specifically mention a pandemic, but games can be canceled by the parties without penalty by "any order of government, military or public authority; or any prohibitory or injunctive order of any competent judicial or other government authority, civil or military."


Last month Gov. Kate Brown signed off on athletes returning to the Oregon and Oregon State campuses for voluntary workouts but has advised against having any large gatherings in the state through September.


Mullens and Smith have remained in communication during the coronavirus health crisis.


"Obviously, our contracts do have force majeure clauses," Mullens said in May when asked about the possible cancellation of games. "It will probably depend on exactly how the order comes down as to how that force majeure clause will be interpreted. It is broad enough that we do think a pandemic falls into it, but it will probably come down to the specifics of the order and how that’s interpreted by our general counsel."


Oregon’s athletic department budget depends on football to pay the bills. Last year 375,136 fans went through the turnstiles at Autzen Stadium, an average of 53,591 during seven home games.


"Obviously a lot of people are wondering what football will look like," UO President Michael Schill said during a May 1 interview with CNN. "I doubt very much that we’re going to have a packed stadium watching our Ducks play football.


"As you know, we won the Rose Bowl this year so we want our football games to be played, we’re hoping our football games will be played, but we’re not going to take any chances with the health and safety of our student athletes or the people who come to watch them. So, the decisions there will be made by the Pac-12 Conference as well as the NCAA, as well as the governor."


Contact reporter Ryan Thorburn at rthorburn@registerguard.com or 541-338-2330, and follow him on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn and Instagram @rg_ducksports. Want more stories like this? Subscribe to get unlimited access and support local journalism.