- SEC agrees to allow schools to reopen training facilities for athletes starting June 8
- Some conferences, including the ACC, are letting schools decide for themselves when to reopen training centers
- Football and men’s and women’s basketball players will be allowed to train
Earlier this week, the NCAA Division I announced that football and basketball players would be permitted to start working out at school practice facilities on June 1.
On Friday, the SEC put a specific date on when they will allow players to return. The conference announced that student-athletes will be permitted to use campus training facilities for voluntary workouts starting on June 8. The players will be working under the supervision of school personnel in order to ensure that all safety measures are being followed. Schools have been tasked with coming up with their own safety guidelines and precautions.
All 14 Schools Agreed On Plan
Presidents of the SEC’s 14 schools voted in favor of the decision after discussions with the league’s commissioner, Greg Sankey. Athletic directors and medical officials were also privy to the conversations.
The SEC announced in March that all athletic activities would be suspended until May 31 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The conference issued a statement on Friday that said, “June 8 will begin a transitional period that will allow athletes to gradually adapt to full training and sports activity after this recent period of inactivity. Under plans developed by each university and consistent with state and local health directives, certain activities will be permitted based on the ability to participate in controlled and safe environments, while also maintaining recommended social distancing measures.”
In an interview on ESPN before the vote was conducted, Sankey insisted that the health and safety of the athletes was the conference’s top priority. That comment rings a bit hollow considering it was reported earlier this week that Power Five schools stand to lose in the neighborhood of $4 billion in revenue if the upcoming football season is canceled, but alas.
SEC Task Force
The SEC has created a task force designed to explore how to best proceed amid the pandemic, and athletic directors have been meeting twice a week to discuss the latest developments.
Sankey cautioned that reopening timelines may well vary from school-to-school. Schools plan to install measures like frequent temperature checks and constant disinfecting of facilities in order to ensure that athletes are safe upon their return to the gym.
Sankey said, “Those are things we all are becoming accustomed to in our daily lives. Those are the same experiences that we’ll see in our athletic programs starting at some point, I expect, in June through the summer; and then we’ll see what that means as we move later into the summer and into the fall.”
The SEC wanted all of its schools to agree on the same reopening timeline. Other conferences have taken a different approach. The ACC, for example, is letting individual schools decide when to reopen their respective facilities.
The NCAA’s guidelines released earlier this week will allow football and men’s and women’s basketball players to return to campus in order to work out. Athletes in other sports have not yet been given the green light to do so.
Rampant Testing Will Be Needed
As is the case with all sports, testing will be a crucial component of the NCAA’s decision about whether to start the 2020 football season. Alabama head coach Nick Saban said this week that allowing players to return to facilities to train over the summer isn’t as important as being able to get every player into the same environment in order to get a better gauge of where things stand on a macro level.
Saban said, “That way, we can fully assess where everybody is, get them tested, get the test results back, and go through all of the proper protocols. Most of these guys are already working out at a local gym wherever they are right now. If they’re with us, at least we have the trainers, doctors, and medical staff here on campus to monitor their health and well-being.”
Saban added that he believes inviting players back to participate in team camps at some point over the summer (July or August) would make it easier for teams to be able to start the season as scheduled in September. Because teams were unable to conduct spring practices, preparations for the upcoming season will look different than they would in a normal year.