SEC will allow players to return to campus June 8 for voluntary workouts

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When it comes to the SEC, it just means more… signs that there may indeed be some semblance of a college football season.

Earlier this week, the NCAA announced that it would allow schools to bring its student-athletes back to campus for voluntary workouts starting June 1.  It had previously been confirmed that the SEC would vote Friday on whether to bring student-athletes, including college football players, back to campus June 1 or June 15.

In the end, the conference opted to split the difference.  Friday, the SEC confirmed that student-athletes, including football players, will be permitted to return to campus for voluntary athletic activities starting June 8.

The league had previously banned all such activities through May 31.

“The safe and healthy return of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and our greater university communities have been and will continue to serve as our guiding principle as we navigate this complex and constantly-evolving situation,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey in a statement. “At this time, we are preparing to begin the fall sports season as currently scheduled, and this limited resumption of voluntary athletic activities on June 8 is an important initial step in that process. Thanks to the blueprint established by our Task Force and the dedicated efforts of our universities and their athletics programs, we will be able to provide our student-athletes with far better health and wellness education, medical and psychological care and supervision than they would otherwise receive on their own while off campus or training at public facilities as states continue to reopen.”

In its release, the SEC stated that “the Task Force prepared a series of best practices for screening, testing, monitoring, tracing, social distancing and maintaining cleaned environments.” Among the enhanced health and safety measures:

  • Enhanced education of all team members on health and wellness best practices, including but not limited to preventing the spread of COVID-19
  • A 3-stage screening process that involves screening before student-athletes arrive on campus, within 72 hours of entering athletics facilities and on a daily basis upon resumption of athletics activities
  • Testing of symptomatic team members (including all student-athletes, coaches, team support and other appropriate individuals)
  • Immediate isolation of team members who are under investigation or diagnosed with COVID-19 followed by contact tracing, following CDC and local public health guidelines
  • A transition period that allows student-athletes to gradually adapt to full training and sport activity following a period of inactivity

Coaches will not be permitted to participate or even observe the voluntary workouts.  Strength & conditioning personnel are excluded.

“While each institution will make its own decisions in creating defined plans to safely return student-athletes to activity, it is essential to employ a collaborative approach that involves input from public health officials, coaches, sports medicine staff, sports performance personnel and student-athletes,” Sankey added. “Elements of the Task Force recommendations provided key guidance for determining the date of the return to activity.”

As it stands right now, there are 11 SEC schools that have already announced they will commence voluntary workouts June 8 — Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Missouri, Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M.  The lone undecideds are Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.

The Big Ten is also expected to allow players back to campus early next month, with schools such as Ohio State targeting June 8.  Illinois has joined OSU as well.

The Big 12, meanwhile, is eyeing a mid- to late-June return date for student-athletes.  The Pac-12 will make a determination next week.  The ACC is expected to do the same, although Louisville has already announced a phased return of on-campus workouts.

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”