The SEC announced Friday that athletes can begin using facilities on campus for voluntary workouts June 8 under strict supervision of designated university personnel and safety guidelines developed by each university.
Presidents and chancellors from the SEC’s 14 universities are the ones who made the final call after extensive conversations within the league involving commissioner Greg Sankey, athletic directors and medical officials.
The NCAA Division I Council had already lifted the moratorium on workouts with its vote on Wednesday, allowing voluntary on-campus activities to resume in football and men’s and women’s basketball starting June 1.
The SEC had suspended all athletics activities through May 31 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In its release, the conference said, “June 8 will begin a transition period that will allow 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.”
Sankey said the timelines for staff members and athletes returning “may vary from campus to campus” and added that CDC guidelines, national guidelines and state guidelines would be expanded on each of the league’s campuses where there are limitations on such things as access, temperature checks and different turnarounds for appropriate sanitization of facilities.
The SEC wanted uniformity as to when athletes could return to campus for voluntary workouts. Other conferences, such as the ACC, opted to let universities make their own decisions.
One SEC administrator requesting anonymity, said the date that players actually begin working out in the weight room or conducting voluntary workouts could be days, and possibly a week or more, after they return to campus on June 8. He noted that some of the players could also return in waves.
Sankey said the SEC is prepared to begin the fall sports season as currently scheduled and that “this limited resumption of voluntary athletic activities on June 8 is an important initial step in that process.”
Although June 8 is the first date SEC athletes can resume voluntary workouts, many of the schools plan to bring the athletes back to campus a few days earlier to get them tested for the virus and then have time to get the test results back.
South Carolina is among the schools that will follow that plan.
Mizzou athletic director Jim Sterk said, “Our goal remains an on time start to the fall sports season for all of our teams, and having football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball players return June 8 for voluntary workouts is the first step on that journey forward in today’s challenging climate. I expect that at some point down the road the NCAA and SEC will allow student-athletes from other sports to return, and when they do, we will likely phase those in starting with the remaining fall sports teams.”