SEC approves voluntary in-person athletics activities starting June 8
Voluntary in-person athletics activities may resume on Southeastern Conference campuses, at the discretion of each university, beginning June 8 under strict supervision of designated university personnel and safety guidelines developed by each institution, the SEC announced Friday.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, the SEC had suspended all athletics activities through May 31. June 8 will begin a transition period that will allow student-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.
The decision to resume athletics activities, which at this time is limited by the NCAA to voluntary activities supervised by strength and conditioning personnel, was made with the guidance of the Conference's Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force. Created by the SEC's Presidents and Chancellors in April and comprised of a cross-section of leading public health, infectious disease and sports medicine professionals from across the SEC's 14 member institutions, the Task Force will remain active to provide continued advice and guidance to the SEC and its members as they prepare for a return to competition.
"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," said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. "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. Thanks to the blueprint established by our Task Force and the dedicated efforts of our universities and their athletics programs, we will be able to provide our student-athletes with far better health and wellness education, medical and psychological care and supervision than they would otherwise receive on their own while off campus or training at public facilities as states continue to reopen."
As part of its recommendations, the Task Force prepared a series of best practices for screening, testing, monitoring, tracing, social distancing and maintaining cleaned environments. These recommendations will serve as a roadmap for each school prior to and upon the return of student-athletes to their campuses.
"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."
In addition to standard infection prevention measures as approved by public health authorities such as facility cleaning and social distancing, recommended enhanced health and safety measures include:
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
During the month of June, NCAA regulations permit only strength and conditioning personnel to supervise voluntary on-campus athletics activities in the sports of football and men's & women's basketball. A current waiver that permits eight (8) hours of virtual film review has been extended through June 30 for football and basketball.
Consistent with NCAA regulations, organized practices and other required physical activities remain prohibited in all sports. A previously announced suspension of in-person camps and coaches clinics conducted by SEC institutions remains in effect until July 31.
UK director of athletics Mitch Barnhart released this statement on Friday:
"With the NCAA and SEC approving a return to activity, we will now work with our partners at the state and local government and university levels to determine the date that our student-athletes will come back. We will not compromise the safety and well-being of our student-athletes in this process, taking all possible precautions. Once we take this important step in returning to activity, we will shift our focus to preparing to return to play and bringing the entire UK family – student-athletes, coaches and fans alike – back together this fall in a responsible and safe way."