ATHENS — College football is gaining momentum in its effort to return this fall in the wake of coronavirus pandemic that led to the cancellation of winter sports and cancellation of spring athletics activity.
A Georgia football return this summer involving coaches and players being quarantined at the schools’ only on-campus hotel is one of many possibilities, per UGA athletic director Greg McGarity.
College football programs across the country are in the midst of researching provisional plans to re-open amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and UGA is no different.
Georgia president Jere Morehead said last week the Bulldogs plan to have their football players back on campus in July and fans in the stands during the regular season.
The Bulldogs’ medical staff held a conference call last week to determine how UGA should go about a return, according to a UGASports.com story.
The Georgia Center for Continuing Education is the only hotel on campus, and it would be used as a “combination spring-fall camp,” per Anthony Dasher’s report.
“Everyone is working on plans,” McGarity told DawgNation. “It’s all a part of being prepared.”
AJC.com reported on Saturday the NCAA’s chief medical officer has said widespread testing for the coronavirus will be critical to college sports’ return.
Dr. Brian Hainline was on call with pro sports leagues’ medical officers and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.
Hainline is cautiously optimistic for fall sports to return provided leadership takes a measured approach, but he was more skeptical of returning capacity crowds to stadiums.
“I think realistically having a football game with 90,000 fans, that would take a remarkable turnaround in a short period of time,” Hainline said in the AJC.com report.
Mass immunity, or efficient and rapid testing at the stadium gates, would need to be in order before crowds approaching 100,000 could gather safely.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart said many of the same things a month ago when looking into college football’s future during an appearance on the SEC Network.
“There’ll be all kinds of protocols put into place,” Smart said during an April 2 appearance on The Paul Finebaum Show. “They’ll probably check everybody for fevers. They’ll have ways of monitoring, quarantining guys.”
Georgia on pace
The University of Iowa set the bar earlier this week when its president announced the Hawkeyes were planning to have athletics back on campus in June.
While Iowa’s June target seems ambitious, UGA’s plan to return would seem on target.
The NCAA Football Oversight Committee advocated for at least six weeks of preparation before the start of the season, per Stadium reporter Brett McMurphy.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart suggested deferred to experts, saying he didn’t think it would be good to speculate.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said on SportsCenter that a July 1 return for “four weeks (of) strength and conditioning” leading into August camp and the Irish starting its season as scheduled (Aug. 29 vs. Navy).
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman agrees July 1 would be optimal, but he believes an Aug. 1 start time would be adequate.
“If we have to wait until Aug 1, I’m a little older than the other coaches, I’ve gone through that,” Pittman said. “I think we could have the season start on time if we came in the first of August, as well.”
The New Normal
Morehead has nine different groups working on each facet of how UGA students, faculty, staff and athletes can return to campus.
College football administrators have been in agreement that students must be back in the class room before on-campus athletic activities can resume.
The face-to-face classroom activities, however, don’t necessarily have to represent business as usual.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey indicated during an appearance on a Jacksonville radio station that on-campus classroom activity might be limited upon school being back in sessions.
“For us in college football, our universities are going to have to be back to operation,” Sankey said. “Yeah, we’re going to need to be having a semester, but there may be more online content delivery.
“You may have a lot more spacing in classrooms, which can alter class scheduling patterns.”
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