Across America people and organizations have begun the Herculean task of figuring out how to return to their activities following a months long quarantine. Those steps are in some instances halting, in others jarringly swift. It’s looking like the world of collegiate athletics will be no different.
The SEC announced this morning that student-athletes will soon be cleared to return to campuses. This afternoon Georgia set out in broad detail the path for Bulldog players to return. Among the things we learned:
- The SEC has set June 8th as the date on which league athletes can return to campuses for voluntary workouts. But it’s unclear exactly what Georgia’s return date will be. It could be June 8th, and every indication is that the coaches and administrators overseeing this process have set that as the goal. But before opening things back up they have some serious work to do.
- COVID-19 tests will be given to all UGA student athletes returning to campus. That goes beyond the SEC’s mandate that all “symptomatic” athletes be tested.
- Special emphasis is being placed on athletes and staff who might be more at risk due to existing conditions like respiratory illnesses. That will require an individualized screening process for all involved.
• Due to the extended layoff from organized and supervised workouts the strength and conditioning staff will oversee a “return-to-sport” plan centered on guidelines developed by a joint task force with representatives from the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association. Because athletes have been training in different environments and with varying access to equipment there will be an acclimation period and an emphasis on avoiding injury.
- Unsurprisingly given how things have been done under Kirby Smart, Georgia intends to enact a multifaceted approach combining the efforts of its medical, strength & conditioning, and nutrition staffs to manage every aspect of the return process.
Obviously, all of this sounds great. Implementing in inside Butts-Mehre and across the athletic facilities is going to be a huge logistical challenge. And while having players back on campus for voluntary workouts in early June is likely a prerequisite for those same players being ready to take the field by Labor Day, there is still a lot that can go wrong at the local, state, and national level to throw a wrench in things.
In short, the plans that are coming together now are a necessary precondition to the return of college football this fall. Whether those efforts will be sufficient to get us to kickoff remains to be seen, and is to some extent out of the hands of even the control freaks who run America’s elite college football programs. Until later....