WATCH 3 things: What’s next for college football return
ATHENS — Now comes the hard part.
So says Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity with the return of college football underway across the country.
“We have one chance to get this right and we all know what happens if we don’t get it right, it certainly pushes us back to the way things are right now,” McGarity said on the Bulldogs Game Day program.
“So we’ve got to be careful, we’ve got to do our due diligence, we’ve got to do a tremendous educational job not only for our staff, but our student athletes, for his new world.”
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced that the league’s new world on campus can begin as early as June 8 with voluntary workouts on campus.
The football coaches will not be allowed to oversee the workouts, but the programs’ strength and conditioning staff will be permitted to supervise.
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1. Uniform football start
College programs’ return to campus for workouts vary, but the start date for football practices overseen by coaches is expected to be uniform.
The Big Ten is allowing its schools to return to campus at their own discretion, Nebraska among the early returners on the first eligibile date, June 1.
The SEC has announced a June 8 date, and the Big 12 schools can return as early as June 15.
The conference commissioners have agreed on a six-week training camp in effect by mid-July with an on-time season start date in mind.
UGA officials have discussed — among many possibilities — quarantining the coaches and players on campus during a two-introductory phase.
McGarity pointed out there is much to be determined.
“It’s only the first step and there are many details still to be determined on every campus,” McGarity said. “We’ll certainly be driven by the medical community and our sports medicine staff led by (director of sports medicine) Ron Courson.”
The NCAA oversight committee had recommended the six weeks of preparation before the season.
2. Fans in the stands
The most fluid element of college football’s return also figures to be the most controversial, with impassioned fans holding their collective breath as in-person attendance remains in limbo.
Georgia, like every other program, has been considering several models with any sort of final decision still weeks way and almost completely at the mercy of the status of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ohio State announced last week it was considering a social-distanced model of 20,000 to 22,000 fans in its 102,000-seat football coliseum.
Georgia is considering several attendance models that would take into consideration various COVID-19 conditions and circumstances, using a similar formula to Ohio State from approximately 18,000 on up.
The question is, how would the tickets be distributed beyond essential personnel needed for sideline and stadium operations?
Major donors, parents of players, recruits and students would seem to be at the forefront of the line in terms of ticket priority. Many scenarios and models are being worked on.
3. Georgia athletes’ testing
The SEC provided minimum guidelines for its 14-member schools upon announcing the league’s June 8 start date with coaching restriction.
A league-appointed “Medical Guidance Task Force,” which includes top public health, infectious disease and sports medicine professionals from across the league, plans a 3-stage screening process and testing for symptomatic team members.
Georgia’s plan, however, takes it a step further and involves COVID testing and the medical evaluations on all student-athletes.
The obvious question is what happens when a player or players test positive? How will the quarantine process work?
McGarity said early on the key words would be “testing, tracing and treatment,” but until it plays out, there are questions.
Players who test positive will likely have their identities withheld by the school under HIPAA guidelines.
The value of the UGA sports scholarship has never been more evident, as the programs need not cut any corners because of the $105 million available in the schools’ reserve fund.
Only 41 percent of FBS programs have a reserve fund, and many have announced cuts and furloughs, some schools eliminating athletics programs.
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