The momentum for college football played this fall continues to grow day by day.
On Friday afternoon, the Big 12 and the SEC announced plans to have football players volunteer on campus in mid-June. That same day, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said he thought athletes would be safer on campus and college football could start on time.
Scott’s comments came during an interview with CNN in which he also optimistically expressed that fans will see some sort of college football season in the fall – and that some may even attend matches.
“We have three states at our conference where gyms are already open and student athletes want to return,” said Scott. “In most cases, we believe that student athletes are in a safer and healthier position if they have access to world-class medical care, supervision and support they can get on their campuses, and if there are problems with the virus to access these world-class medical centers that we have. “
SEC and Big 12 announcements come just two days after the NCAA Division I Council voted to establish a moratorium on voluntary on-campus training by football and basketball players effective June 1. The NCAA updated that rule Friday, saying that volunteer activities would all sports from June 1.
The Pac-12 has yet to announce when it will allow athletes on campus, but Scott’s comments seem to indicate a step in that direction. He also indicated that football camps could start in late July and that there could be fans in the stands at Pac-12 stadiums – although probably in a “phased” approach.
“I think what we’re going to see is a patchwork by state regarding the fan problem,” Scott told CNN. “I think college football is going to move together to hopefully start playing at the beginning of the season, assuming we get support from public health officials.
“But I think we’re going to see a big inequality across the country. I even see it in my own conference, where states will allow fans in, probably initially on some sort of socially distant basis, and then allow for more and more in a phased approach “and some states will be a little more conservative and play for empty stadiums.”
The SEC initially announced on Friday that voluntary personal activities can be resumed on SEC campuses on June 8 only for football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball. But after the NCAA released its updated ruling on Friday afternoon, the SEC announced that the June 8 date would apply to athletes in all sports.
“As we prepare to begin the fall sports season as currently planned, this limited resumption of voluntary athletic activity on June 8 is an important first step in that process,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey.
Big 12 presidents and chancellors met on Friday and decided that volunteer activities could begin on June 15 for football, July 1 for other fall sports, and July 15 for all other sports.
SEC officials noted that any training would take place “under the strict supervision of designated university personnel and safety guidelines developed by each institution”. They called June 8 the beginning of a “transition period in which student athletes can gradually adapt to full training and sports activity after this recent period of inactivity.”
Permitted actions are limited by the NCAA to volunteer activities supervised by strength and conditioning personnel. Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said this was “just the first step with further details and plans for the coming days and weeks.”
“This is an important first step leading up to a season this fall, and we will continue to work together as our top priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our student athletes, coaches and staff,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said in a statement.
Defending champion LSU said it will resume voluntary training for players on June 8 in accordance with the SEC decision.
“Our administration has worked very hard to ensure that all necessary safety procedures and protocols are in place to keep our team safe and sound,” said Tigers coach Ed Orgeron. “This is a great first step to start playing the great game of college football again in the fall.”
The SEC decided to resume athletic activity under the direction of a competition task force with health, infectious disease and sports medicine professionals from each of the league’s 14 affiliated schools.
The Task Force has developed a set of best practices for screening, testing, monitoring, tracking, social distance and maintaining clean environments to guide each school.
Recommendations include testing symptomatic team members (including athletes, coaches and executives) and screening athletes before arriving on campus within 72 hours of entering athletic facilities and daily after resuming athletic activities.
Other recommendations include immediate isolation of team members who have been diagnosed or are undergoing COVID-19 diagnosis, followed by contact detection under Centers for Disease Control and local public health guidelines.
“Health and safety was our top priority as we conducted this planning process, and we will continue to follow the guidance of medical experts and health officials as we navigate for the next few weeks,” said Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer. “Our staff and student athletes must be prepared for a ‘new standard’ as we will make changes in the way that everyone accesses and uses our facilities.”
SEC officials said the task force’s recommendations could guide members of the league, Sankey noted that each school could make their own decisions about plans to ensure that student athletes return safely.
For example, while the Task Force’s recommendations only focused on testing symptomatic team members, Georgia Senior Associate Athletic Director for sports medicine Ron Courson said in a statement that the Bulldogs will “conduct COVID testing and medical evaluations on all student athletes. ” Florida announced it would also test all of its athletes.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Friday that he thinks college football will return on schedule with at least a few spectators. Abbott has already established new rules to allow youth sports competitions to resume in June and for some professional leagues to hold events without spectators.
“Once we start college football season, our goal now is to start college football season as planned, with fans on stands,” said Abbott in an interview with Austin’s television channel, KXAN. “What we don’t know is what the capacity level would be.”
AP Sports Writers Jim Vertuno, Teresa M. Walker, Paul Newberry and John Zenor contributed to this report.