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NCAA releases plan for the eventual return of college sports

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The NCAA has been in the news a lot of late — some good, some not so much — but now the focus at least temporarily shifts to sports.  And the return of student-athletes to competition.

Friday, the NCAA released a document entitled “Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport.” The NCAA had previously assembled the COVID-19 Advisory Panel.  That panel, which consists of leading medical, public health and epidemiology experts, has put together its nine core principles that will help guide the NCAA toward the eventual resumption of collegiate athletics.

  1. There must not be directives at the national level that preclude resocialization.
  2. State and local authorities must have in place a plan for resocialization.
  3. There should be a plan in place at the university/college level for resocialization of students.
  4. There must be a plan in place at the university/college level for resocialization of student-athletes within athletics.
  5. There must be adequate personal protective equipment for athletics health care providers, and there must be sanitizers to manage infection control in all shared athletics space.
  6. There must be the ability to assess immunity to COVID-19 at a regional and local level. This could include immunity at the college campus, plus a more focused assessment of herd immunity for athletics teams.
  7. There must be access to reliable, rapid diagnostic testing on any individual who is suspected of having COVID-19 symptoms.
  8. There must be in place a local surveillance system so that newly identified cases can be identified promptly and isolated, and their close contacts must be managed appropriately.
  9. There must be clearly identified and transparent risk analyses in place. Such risk analyses consider issues such as economics, education, restoration of society, and medical risk of sport participation, including COVID-19 infection and possible death.

As is the case with states across the nation, the NCAA will roll out the eventual return of collegiate athletics in phases.  In this case, there are three phases.  Those phases are:

Phase One:

In accordance with the federal guidelines, resocialization of sport for Phase One assumes the following:

  • Gating criteria have been satisfied for a minimum of 14 days.
  • Vulnerable student-athletes, athletics health care providers, coaches and athletics personnel should continue to shelter in place. Vulnerable populations include individuals with serious underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity and asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised, such as by chemotherapy.
  • Those living in dorms and other residences where vulnerable individuals reside should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home, and appropriate isolating precautions should be taken.
  • Physical distancing should continue.
  • Gatherings of more than 10 people should be avoided unless precautionary measures of physical distancing and sanitization are in place.
  • Gyms and common areas where student-athletes and staff are likely to congregate and interact, should remain closed unless strict distancing and sanitation protocols can be implemented.
  • Virtual meetings should be encouraged whenever possible and feasible.
  • Nonessential travel should be minimized, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding isolation after travel should be implemented.

Phase Two:

In accordance with the federal guidelines, if Phase One has been implemented successfully, with no evidence of a rebound, and gating criteria have been satisfied for a minimum of 14 days since the implementation of Phase One:

  • Vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place.
  • Awareness and proper isolating practices related to vulnerable individuals in residences should continue.
  • Physical distancing should continue.
  • Gatherings of more than 50 people should be avoided unless precautionary measures of physical distancing and sanitization are in place.
  • Gyms and common areas where student-athletes and staff are likely to congregate and interact should remain closed, or appropriate distancing and sanitation protocols should be implemented.
  • Virtual meetings should continue to be encouraged whenever possible and feasible.
  • Nonessential travel may resume.

Phase Three:

In accordance with the federal guidelines, if Phase Two has been implemented successfully, with no evidence of a rebound, and gating criteria have been satisfied for a minimum of 14 days since the implementation of Phase Two:

  • Vulnerable student-athletes, athletics health care providers, coaches and athletics personnel can resume in-person interactions, but should practice physical distancing, minimizing exposure to settings where such distancing is not practical.
  • Gyms and common areas where student-athletes and staff are likely to congregate and interact can reopen if appropriate sanitation protocols are implemented, but even low-risk populations should consider minimizing time spent in crowded environments.
  • Unrestricted staffing may resume.

“It is also important to take into consideration that there will not be a quick, single day of re-emergence into society,” Brian Hainline, the leader of the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel, said in a statement. “We will re-emerge in a manner that recognizes COVID-19 will be around until there is an effective vaccine, treatment or both. That is why resocialization should be rolled out in a phased way that helps assure sustained low infection spread, as well as aids in the ability to quickly diagnose and isolate new cases.”

At bare minimum, we are at least a month and a half away from anything close to resembling normalcy when it comes to collegiate athletics.  That would put us in the middle of June. Beyond the timeframe set by Iowa’s president to resume football practice.

Even with these guidelines, we are still in the great state of the unknown.  There are simply too many variables, starting with the various states in this country in varying degrees of lifting or easing stay-at-home orders.  There does, though, seem to be the very real possibility that some conferences, such as the SEC, could start their seasons close to as scheduled, while others, most notably the Pac-12, won’t be ready come early September.

In fact, that conference’s commissioner alluded to just that on Thursday.  With our emphasis added.

“The hope is we all move along together,” Greg Sankey stated in a radio interview. “To date that’s been the conversation and collective thinking about how we may have to adjust. But it’s a very different situation from a pro league.

There is room for different conferences to make different decisions. But we’re all interconnected. When we’re playing basketball tournaments there is no connection. We’re all in our arenas playing each other.

South Alabama announces future home-and-home with Louisiana Tech

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If you’ve been thinking, “boy, I sure could use some scheduling news involving South Alabama and Louisiana Tech,” are you ever in luck.

South Alabama Wednesday announced a future home-and-home series with Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs will head to Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile on Sept. 24, 2022.  The Jaguars will then take a trip to Ruston’s Joe Aillet Stadium on Sept. 25, 2027.

South Alabama and Louisiana Tech have squared off twice previously.  Those two matchups were part of a home-and-home in 2017 and 2018.  Both of those were wins for the Bulldogs.

USA had previously announced a home-and-home with Ole Miss.

South Alabama is coming off a 2-10 season in the second year under Steve Campbell.  The Jaguars have never finished above .500 since making the move to the FBS level in 2012.  The closest they came was a 6-6 record in 2013.

Louisiana Tech, meanwhile, is coming off a 10-3 2019 campaign.  The 10 wins set a school record as an FBS program. In beating Miami 14-0 in the 2019 Independence Bowl, Tech became the first Group of Five school to shut out a Power Five member in a postseason game.

In seven seasons under skip Holtz, the Bulldogs have gone 56-36.  Those are the most wins for a Bulldogs head coach since Tech moved up to the Div. I-A, now FBS, level.  With 151, Joe Aillet holds the school’s all-time record.

Eastern Michigan adds a tight end to its 2020 recruiting class

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Like Boise State and Nebraska before it, Eastern Michigan continues a late filling of its 2020 football recruiting class.  Even as its eyes are mostly on the 2021 class.

Eastern Michigan football Wednesday that its has officially signed tight end Lucas Luft as part of its Class of 2020.  With Luft’s signing, the Eagles now have a class that’s 24 recruits strong.

Luft spent the past two seasons at Fullerton College.  In 2018, Luft was a first-team All-Southern California Football Association selection after averaging a ridiculous 31.5 yards per catch.

According to 247Sports.com, Luft is the No. 17 JUCO tight end in this year’s class.  He’s also a three-star signee according to that recruiting service.

“In Lucas, we have found exactly what we were looking for,” said head coach Chris Creighton. “He’s a tough 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end that can really stretch the field and catch. He was an excellent wide receiver in high school and has grown into a man who can do it all. Best of all, he is the kind of person we look for off the field. He is a great fit for Eastern Michigan football.

Eastern Michigan now holds the No. 7 football recruiting class in the MAC.

EMU is coming off a 6-7 campaign that ended with a QuickLane Bowl loss to Pitt.  The Eagles have now played in a bowl game three of the past four years, the only time in school history that’s ever happened.

Creighton’s 28 wins (in six seasons) are already fifth-most in the program’s history.

At least five Alabama football players have reportedly tested positive for coronavirus

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For once, Alabama and Marshall have something in common when it comes to football.

Earlier this week, it was reported that a pair of Marshall football players had tested positive for coronavirus.  The positive tests came after the Thundering Herd players had returned to campus for voluntary workouts.  Both of those individuals were placed in quarantine.

After being allowed to by the SEC, Alabama football players began returning for voluntary on-campus workouts Monday.  Four days later, it’s now being reported that at least five Alabama football players have tested positive for COVID-19.

All of the Crimsin Tide players who tested positive are asymptomatic.  Based on protocol, all of those have been isolated from the rest of the team. Al.com wrote that “[a]t least one of the players who tested positive for COVID-19 was in attendance for player-led workout sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday.” Obviously, the players involved have not been named publicly.

One report, however, stated “that the list of players included a lineman, a couple of skill players and one quarterback.”

Thursday evening, Alabama released a statement that neither confirmed nor denied the reports.

The health and safety of our student-athletes is a top priority. Resources and protocols are in place to ensure they receive the best medical care when returning to campus. Due to privacy laws we cannot share information specific to the health of our student-athletes.

Chris Beaty Memorial Fund set up to honor ex-Indiana defensive lineman gunned down Monday

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Chris Beaty may be gone, but the former Indiana football player won’t be soon forgotten.

It was reported Monday that Beaty “was one of two men shot and killed in separate incidents over the weekend as violence erupted in Downtown Indianapolis.” The 38-year-old Beaty was shot multiple times shortly before midnight local time Saturday and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Chris Beaty was a defensive lineman for the Indiana Hoosiers football team from 2000-04.

This week, Beaty’s nephew, Jared Thomas, set up a GoFundMe page to honor his uncle’s legacy.  The goal of the fundraising page, Thomas wrote, is to collect “donations in his memory to the Chris Beaty Memorial Scholarship Fund that will benefit Indiana University & Cathedral High School, his alma maters which he loved so dearly.”

As of this posting, more than $40,000 has been raised.

Despite being away from the Indiana football program as a player for nearly two decades, Beaty remained close to it.

HoosierHuddle.com wrote that “Beaty was still actively involved with IU football. He tweeted on April 26th a screenshot of head coach Tom AllenMark Deal and several other Indiana football alumni. He thanked Allen for checking in with the former players and said that IU football was in good hands.”

Included was a tweet from Beaty’s personal Twitter account.

“I am at a loss for words,” a statement from Allen began. “The news of the passing of Chris Beaty is just devastating. Since I returned home to coach at Indiana, Chris embraced me, encouraged me and supported me! His passion for life and Indiana Football energized me every time we were together. He was one of our first alumni that displayed his unwavering support for what we are building here at Indiana and how we are building it. I am so heartbroken for his family and he will be deeply missed by all those that were blessed to call him a friend! LEO”