Apparently, they split the difference.
The Southeastern Conference announced that athletics activities may resume on campuses, at the discretion of each university, beginning June 8 under strict supervision of designated university personnel and safety guidelines developed by each school.
The move was largely expected. League presidents voted on Friday whether to allow the first athletes to return to campus, and were also considering June 1 and June 15.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, the SEC had suspended all athletics activities through May 31. It's the the first of the 10 conferences to lifts its own ban on on-campus activities.
"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," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a release.
Alabama had a plan in place to open its facilities on June 1.
Later Friday, the NCAA announced voluntary athletic activities in all sports would be allowed effective June 1.
The move followed the NCAA Division One Management Council ruling on Wednesday that football and basketball (with other sports likely to follow) could begin participating in voluntary workouts.
Specifically, voluntary on-campus workouts must be initiated by student-athletes with no contact or direction from the coaches. They are still limited by the NCAA to voluntary activities supervised by strength and conditioning personnel.
Numerous precautionary measures will also need to be in place beforehand and all local, state and federal regulations must be followed.
The council also extended the blanket waiver allowing teams in those sports to require eight hours per week of virtual nonphysical activities through the end of June, recognizing that some student-athletes won’t be able return to campus or will not be comfortable doing so.
Additionally, countable required athletics activities will be prohibited through June 30 for all basketball and football student-athletes. Schools will, however, be permitted to provide football student-athletes with funds equal to what they would receive to cover meals, lodging and expenses (other than tuition/fees and books) through a summer athletics scholarship.
The Football Bowl Subdivision members of the Council also decided that FBS schools cannot host football camps and clinics during the summer of 2020 and FBS coaches (including graduate assistants) are prohibited from working at football camps and clinics held at other four-year NCAA schools in 2020.
The SEC decision only covers football and basketball, and said its move was made with the guidance of the conference's Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force.
In addition to standard infection prevention measures as approved by public health authorities such as facility cleaning and social distancing, recommended 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 three-stage screening process that begins before anyone arrives 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
“The health and safety of everyone, including our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans has been, and will continue to be at the forefront as we prepare to return," Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said in a statement. "We appreciate the leadership and guidance of the Southeastern Conference and its Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force throughout this situation to best equip our campuses with educational materials and recommendations on best practices.
"Resumption of voluntary in-person activity is an important step in moving us towards the fall athletic season, which we are fully preparing for with a phased approach beginning June 8. In addition to our public health officials, we are fortunate to have an elite sports medicine staff here at Alabama, from our athletic trainers to our team doctors that we will continue to take direction from as we make decisions for a safe return. We look forward to welcoming back our student-athletes, coaches and staff to campus.”
The University of Alabama, which extended spring break and then only returned with on-line classes for the rest of the spring semester, is expected to make a decision about the the possibility of the general student body returning to campus for in-person classes by July 1.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Tuscaloosa has sharply increased, 38.8 percent, to 461 over the past week, with nine deaths overall.
As of Friday afternoon, the state of Alabama has had 13,476 cases and 536 deaths. More than 5 million cases have confirmed worldwide, including 1.6 million in the United States.