After the NCAA voted Wednesday to allow student-athletes to return to their respective campuses for voluntary workouts, the SEC has announced that “voluntary in-person athletics activities” can begin on June 8th.
Much like everything else opening back up as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, strict health guidelines will be in place and the workouts will take place under the strict supervision of designated university personnel, according to the SEC.
The SEC’s decision was made with guidance from the conference’s ‘Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force’ which is comprised of medical representatives from each of the 14 member institutions.
“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. “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.”
A statement from the SEC explained that each institution will ultimately make its own decisions in creating defined plans to safely return student-athletes to activity, but recommended enhanced health and safety measures include:
- 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
During the month of June, NCAA regulations permit only strength and conditioning personnel to supervise voluntary on-campus athletics activities in the sports of football and men’s & women’s basketball.
Ole Miss Athletic Director Keith Carter released the following statement following the SEC’s announcement.
“We are excited about today’s announcement by the SEC and look forward to safely welcoming the first wave of student-athletes back to campus beginning June 8. I want to commend Shannon Singletary and the rest of the Ole Miss Athletics planning subcommittee, which is comprised of medical professionals and a diverse group of university administrators, for their leadership and diligence in formulating our gating plan, which will work cohesively with the timeline established by the SEC. The subcommittee’s priority is to protect vulnerable employees and students, and under the guidance of multiple experts, peer-reviewed information, the CDC, MSDH and campus and local authorities, we will take a phased approach to reopening our department.
The student-athletes’ initial return to campus will be dedicated to safely training and preparing for the 2020-21 campaign, and only those operations that are essential to that goal. This will include COVID-19 educational sessions; voluntary or required activities as allowed by NCAA; strength and conditioning; medical and rehabilitation treatment, and nutritional fueling operations. As Commissioner Sankey pointed out, we will be able to provide our student-athletes with better health and wellness education, medical and psychological care and supervision than our athletes would otherwise receive on their own.”
Mississippi State AD John Cohen gave the following statement through the MSU Athletics’ Twitter account.
— Mississippi State Athletics (@HailState) May 22, 2020