Gamecock Football: Spring practice No. 4

South Carolina and other SEC schools got the best news they've had in awhile Friday as the SEC announced that voluntary, on-campus athletic activities can resume for football and basketball beginning on June 8. 

College campuses and athletic programs have been shut down since March due to the spread of the coronavirus. While organized practices are still prohibited, NCAA regulations permit strength and conditioning personnel to supervise voluntary on-campus activities for football and men’s and women’s basketball. A current waiver that permits eight hours of virtual film review has been extended through June 30 for football and basketball.

The new rules would allow South Carolina football players to return to campus and begin preparing for the 2020 season under strict health and safety guidelines. The SEC outlined protocols programs must follow, including three stages of testing for COVID-19. 

South Carolina Athletics Director said Friday that the school will be ready for the return of football players June. 8. 

"Based on the decision today by the Southeastern Conference Presidents and Chancellors, the University of South Carolina will be ready to host football student-athletes on campus for voluntary workouts on June 8," he said. "They will be on campus several days before to get tested for the COVID-19 virus. We are excited to have our student-athletes back on campus. Their health, safety and well-being are our number one priority. Our staff and medical team have developed a thorough set of protocols that exceed CDC guidelines and will help our student-athletes through the transition back to campus."

"I am pleased that we will bring our student-athletes back to campus on June 8 for conditioning and I have confidence in our Department of Athletics to follow public health protocols to mitigate risk to our athletes, coaches and training staff," said UofSC President Bob Caslen. "This is another step toward the phased reopening of our campus and another sign that we are ready to get back to the business of educating our next generation of leaders."

The decision by the SEC Presidents and Chancellors 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. The group is comprised of a cross-section of leading public health 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. Dr. Zoë Foster, athletics team physician, is the University of South Carolina's representative on the Task Force.

Highlighted among the protocols that have been developed for Gamecock student-athletes are:

  • Student-athletes will receive a COVID-19 and antibody test upon arrival on campus. They will also receive a daily symptoms and temperature check and trace contacting will take place.
  • All facilities used by student-athletes have undergone a strict cleaning process to ensure they have been fully disinfected and will include additional hand sanitizing stations.
  • All student-athletes and staff are required to wear face coverings in public spaces and wash their hands frequently.
  • Physical distancing with staff and student-athletes will be emphasized.
  • There are extensive educational efforts including videos, in-person communication and signage.

Procedures in place of a student-athlete or staff members shows symptoms of the virus. Student-athletes will also be set up in "clusters" for all activities as to keep a possible positive inside the small unit rather than impacting the entire group.

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, as well as men's and 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.

Here is the full press release from the SEC: 

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — 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.