Wednesday brought even more optimism regarding the eventual return of football this fall, as multiple reports stated the NCAA Division I Council voted to allow voluntary athletic activities for football to begin June 1.
As always during this coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to note that “for now,” “at this point,” and “planning on” are tied to just about every thought and statement about the plan to start athletics–and football specifically–back up.
But on Wednesday there was some impactful news, as the NCAA Division I Council voted to allow voluntary athletic activities in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball to begin June 1 and run through the end of the month, according to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel and other reports.
Schools have been prevented from participating in organized on-campus activities through May 31. This vote could have extended that rule. Programs across the country have been mobilizing to return to on-campus activities in anticipation of this vote, as it was likely not to be extended.
Pac-12 presidents plan to make a decision before the May 31 deadline as to whether conference programs can abide by this June 1 return date, or if the moratorium will be extended. From there, it would be a school-specific decision. Utah is one of the conference schools that has been preparing for a June 1 return.
On Tuesday, the Pac-12 Conference released a statement:
“At our Pac-12 CEO meeting earlier today, we discussed the current COVID-19 crisis and reaffirmed that we will be guided by science and data, the counsel of medical experts, and the health and safety of everyone connected to our campuses in our decision-making.
We consulted with our Pac-12 COVID-10 Medical Advisory Committee, over 50 of the world’s leading infectious disease experts, public health experts, physicians, researchers and trainers. The Committee has developed a comprehensive set of return-to-play protocols and guidelines carefully designed to enable our member universities, when they determine it is appropriate, to as safely as possible bring student-athletes back to campus and ultimately resume athletic competition.
These guidelines, which will be continuously updated, address all aspects of intercollegiate athletic activity, and include requirements related to testing, contact tracing, hygiene protocols, education, and disease prevention. In determining whether to adopt the Committee’s recommendations, as well as any future adjustments to them, our priority will be health and safety.
With our current Pac-12 pandemic policy in place through May 31, we will make a determination on whether and how to modify that policy prior to that date based upon the work of our Committee and the advice of relevant health experts.”
There has been plenty of apprehension amongst California high school players, parents and coaches as to the fall future of the sport. Already, coaches from other states have been pitching the idea of transferring to a state that might be considered more football friendly. But it doesn’t seem as though California will be content to get left behind when it comes to athletics.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said earlier this week that professional sports could return in the state beginning in early June. Early on, games would take place without spectators, but the state continues to move through the four phases of recovery, and Phase 3–which Newsom said Monday could “not even be more than a month away,” includes sporting events without fans.
Test and trace ability at each school could be a huge factor in the ability to move forward quickly, and according to SI.com’s Ross Dellinger, schools have already begun massive changes in order to ensure the health and safety of its players.
Including, according to Dellinger:
“Coaches and staff members in masks and gloves. Temperature tests at the front door. Hand sanitizing stations around every corner. Weight room squat racks 20 feet apart. Stairwells with one-way movement, a set for going up and another for going down. Elevators with a maximum occupancy of two. Nutrition stations offering only packaged snacks.
At least in the beginning, some schools won’t allow access to showers. There will be no passing a football back and forth either, at least early on.
No sharing towels or water bottles. No hugging, no high-fiving and no weight-training exercises that require assistance from a spotter.”