The SEC announced via Twitter on Friday that the conference will allow in-person athletic activities to resume starting on June 8.
According to the Twitter statement, SEC member schools will decide on their own when to resume activities “under strict supervision of designated university personnel and safety guidelines developed by each institution.”
On May 20, the NCAA Division I Council voted to lift its on-campus activities suspension for football and men’s and women’s basketball, effective June 1. The SEC was the first Power Five conference to establish conference-wide guidelines on the limited return.
The SEC’s decision originally only applied to the same three sports. However, the DI council held a follow-up vote on May 22 to allow all remaining college sports to return to in-person workouts, and the SEC followed suit shortly after.
“At this time, we are preparing to begin the fall sports season as currently scheduled,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement on the SEC website. “And this limited resumption of voluntary athletic activities on June 8 is an important initial step in that process.”
NCAA guidelines restrict supervision of voluntary on-campus workouts to strength and conditioning personnel through the end of June. Practices and required athletic activities remain suspended.
Health recommendations provided on the SEC website include COVID-19 screening before an athlete enters campus facilities, within three days after an athlete works out and on a daily basis thereafter.
While the NCAA noted that teams must adhere to state and local restrictions on gatherings and athletic facilities upon their resumption of activities, every state with an SEC school has taken steps to reopen non-essential businesses, including gyms and fitness centers, according to NPR.
“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.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said he would defer to teams’ sports medicine staffs to roll out a safe return to athletic activities.
“Guidelines and enhanced health and safety measures will be followed to the letter,” McGarity said. “Again, this is only the first step with further details and plans coming over the next several days and weeks.”
Such guidelines will be overseen by senior associate athletic director for sports medicine, Ron Courson, Georgia’s point man for implementing the SEC’s decision.
Courson has developed a “return to sport plan” that takes into account recommendations by the state government, the NCAA and the SEC.
Courson saids athletes will be screened for COVID-19 before entering facilities and given an NCAA-guided workout schedule that features a “reduced volume of work and modified work-rest ratios” to help ease them into both the Georgia summer and intensified training regimens.
Social distancing and sanitization will be emphasized in the small-group workouts outlined by Courson’s plan.
Georgia football head coach Kirby Smart said he’s focused on the health of his athletes and training personnel.
“We’ll be working in the coming days on finalizing plans to implement the return of our players,” Smart said. “I’m sure they are looking forward to returning and begin working toward what we hope is a regular season in the fall.”
The path is paved for football’s return. But it remains to be seen who’ll accept the invitation back to Athens on June 8.
Printed with permission from The Red & Black independent student media organization based in Athens, Georgia; redandblack.com/sports