Friday the SEC Presidents voted to allow student-athletes to return to campus on June 8.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the conference had previously canceled the SEC Basketball Tournament, as well as all spring seasons, practice, spring games, and any in-person contact.
The return to campus will happen in phases. First, student-athletes that who participate in fall sports will return to campus on May 26 to begin physicals and COVID-19 testing. Soccer and volleyball athletes will begin to return to campus on June 15 and go through the same process of physicals and testing that the football players before them have completed. Women’s basketball players will return to campus on June 29 and all new student-athletes can begin to arrive in Gainesville on July 1.
“Our sports-medicine team has worked closely with the experts at UFHealth, including the infectious disease staff, to make sure we’re taking every precaution necessary when we bring our athletes back,” Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin said. “The only way we would bring them back if we felt we could do so in the safest manner based on the data that has been developed. The experts know a lot more now than they did two months ago about the virus.”
There will be more precautions added in order to make this return to campus a reality. Every student-athlete will be tested for COVID-19 before they begin any sort of physical activity on campus. After passing that test student-athletes will have daily temperature checks and fill out health questionnaires. Student-athletes will also be required to wear personal protective equipment for any meetings other than lifting in the weight room.
Tutoring and academic advising will be available to students on an appointment basis at the Hawkins Center. The University Athletic Association will provide information and educate student-athletes on proper social distancing techniques. The lifting sessions in the weight room will be in smaller groups, led by each sport’s individual strength and conditioning coach. The weight room will be thoroughly cleaned after each session and again at the end of the day when all sessions have been finished.
This is a new normal, at least for the foreseeable future, but it’s what has to be done if we want to get collegiate sports back on the field as soon as possible.
“We’re so blessed to have so many talented people working on our staff and working on this campus in other areas,” Stricklin said. “This is a lot of conversation, a lot of thought and a lot of planning, which is one of the reasons there is confidence in the return plan. And it may adapt and morph as we go along and start to integrate them back into campus.”