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.