SEC commissioner Greg Sankey Photo by: Southeastern Conference
May 22, 2020 12:57:15 PM
STARKVILLE -- Sports are nearing their return.
Friday, the Southeastern Conference announced member institutions may begin voluntary in-person workouts beginning June 8 after previously suspending all activity 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," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a news release. "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."
While the return of sports is a welcome one, student athletes will be under strict guidelines and protocols once they return to campus. Working with the previously conceived Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force -- a group comprised of public health, infectious disease and sports medicine professionals from across the SEC's 14 member institutions -- the conference is propping schools partake in the following measures to ensure safety among their student-athletes:
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
Ultimately, the SEC said Monday the practices and way in which schools bring back student-athletes, coaches and other staffers will be up to them.
"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 said. "Elements of the Task Force recommendations provided key guidance for determining the date of the return to activity."
Under NCAA guidelines, organized practices and other physical activities are still prohibited an in-person camps and coaching clinics conducted by SEC schools still may not endure until July 31. Also of note, the NCAA's current waiver that allows eight hours of virtual film review has now been extended until June 30.
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.