Brett Hudson, The Tuscaloosa News
Published 2:03 p.m. ET May 22, 2020 | Updated 3:12 p.m. ET May 22, 2020
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Southeastern Conference schools will have athletes back on campus starting June 8.
The SEC announced Friday afternoon that member institutions are allowed to have athletes back on campus for voluntary workouts starting on that date, all under “strict supervision of designated university personnel and safety guidelines developed by each institution.” The SEC said in its release the intent is to begin a transition period that will allow athletes to gradually adapt to training and sports activity.
The SEC said the decision was made by the league’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force, a cross-section of public health, infectious disease and sports medicine professionals from the 14 member institutions.
The action comes two days after the NCAA Division I Council voted to allow athletes in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball to return to campus for voluntary workouts beginning June 1. The NCAA’s decision does not extend to other fall sports, such as volleyball and women’s soccer, which often start their seasons a few days before the football season.
“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 the 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.
The announcement ends a moratorium on on-campus athletic activities that began March 12, when spring sports athletics were canceled, beginning with the SEC men’s basketball tournament and the first weekend of conference play in baseball. Five days later, all spring sports were canceled.
The task force gave schools a series of best practices for screening, testing, social distancing, cleaning and other practices to make on-campus facilities safe for athletes. In addition to those practices, the SEC recommended further education of all team members on health and wellness best practices, a three-stage screening process before athletes arrive on campus and testing and immediate isolation of symptomatic players.
In March, Alabama football coach Nick Saban said he hoped to use summer workouts as a way to replace spring practice.
“If there was a way we could have 14 days of teaching with our players sometime before fall camp happens, I think that probably would be beneficial,” Saban said. “Historicall,y we’re not allowed to work with our players in the summertime. This would be hypothetical that at some point in time in the summer, we would have the players back here and we would be able to work with them.
“I’m not talking about having pads on, but just be able to teach system, teach scheme. We’ll have to evaluate the players based on fall camp. I think the players who benefit the most from spring practice and having these (meetings) are really the young players on the team.”
The NCAA, however, limited current voluntary workouts to those led by strength and conditioning personnel.
LSU director of athletics Scott Woodward said on a teleconference last week — before the NCAA Division I Council’s action — that the school was preparing for a June 1 return and playing football on Labor Day weekend.