ATHENS — SEC football and basketball players can return to campus for voluntary workouts on June 8 after a vote of league presidents on Friday.
ALERT-Voluntary in-person athletics activities may resume on @SEC campuses, at the discretion of each university, beginning June 8 under strict supervision of designated university personnel and safety guidelines developed by each institution.
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) May 22, 2020
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey issued a statement explaining the return is the beginning of a transition period to help student-athletes “gradually adapt to full training and sports activity after this recent period of inactivity.”
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered the shutdown of collegiate athletes on March 12, leading to canceled championships during the winter sports season and the elimination of all spring athletics.
The NCAA cleared the path for the student-athletes return as early as June 1 on Wednesday when the Division I Council voted to lift a moratorium for on-campus activity that ran through May 31.
The 40-member council decided in a virtual meeting that Division I football and basketball players could take part in voluntary activities provided they adhere to state and federal provisions and/or guidelines.
The NCAA council members emphasized health and safety aspects, to the extent that reopening campuses “will be an individual decision but should be based on advice from medical experts,” per council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Penn.
Coaches cannot attend or direct the voluntary workouts — unless there’s a safety exemption — nor can they receive reports from the activity.
Before its return, the SEC referred to guidance from its “Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force,” which was created by league presidents and chancellors in April.
The group, is made up of top public health, infectious disease and sports medicine professionals from across the SEC’s 14 member institutions.
UGA director of sports medicine Ron Courson, who one year ago today (May 22) is credited with saving the life of Georgia quarterback D’Wan Mathis, represents UGA in the group.
The task force will remain active and provide guidance as the programs work toward returning for the start of the season.
The University of Georgia has been working on the players returning to campus for weeks, since president Jere Morehead appointed nine groups made up of 140 people.
“There will obviously have to be some changes, and there will have to be some precautions,” Morehead said in an April WGAU interview.
Morehead said the groups are working in the areas of: workplace safety, instruction, research, public service and outreach, student life, athletics and the fiscal impact.
Scott Woodward, the athletic director at defending national football champion LSU, said last week his program was preparing for the June 1 return.
“We are preparing for a June 1 return, even though we don’t know that,” Woodward said in a Zoom call that included the Lafayette Daily Advertiser.
“I see some time in June our athletes getting back to campus and us taking care of them and being paramount in safety and health.”
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said last week the Buckeyes set a potential return date of June 8, per Bucknuts.
This, after NCAA president Mark Emmert said he would not legislate a uniform return from conference to conference.
While voluntary workouts will resume on campuses across the country at different times, conference commissioners reached a consensus on a six-week training camp in effect by mid-July if the season is to start on time.
The six weeks had been recommended by the NCAA oversight committee, as previously reported by DawgNation.
The Division I Council said it will address the return of other sports to campus soon, with their respective status’ determined by electronic vote.
The SEC statement includes that in-person camps and coaches clinics conducted by SEC schools remain suspended through July 31.