On Thursday, Sports Illustrated national writer Ross Dellenger was able to get his hands on the Power 5 conferences plan for in-season testing, should a season move forward in the fall.
The Power 5 conferences are working in cohesion with the NCAA to establish the "minimum testing standards," which are set to be released soon. In the six-page document obtained by Dellenger, football players will be tested 72 hours prior to kickoff each week using a PCR test.
In addition, athletes who test positive for the novel coronavirus will have to miss at least 10 days of competition. After the initial 10-day isolation period, athletes must go three days without showing symptoms before returning to team activities.
According to the report, coaches will not be subjected to weekly testing though all staff members will be required to wear a mask.
The NCAA released specific guidelines on in-season health protocols about an hour after Dellenger’s report.
“Any recommendation on a pathway toward a safe return to sport will depend on the national trajectory of COVID-19 spread,” said Brian Hainline, NCAA chief medical officer. “The idea of sport resocialization is predicated on a scenario of reduced or flattened infection rates.”
Dellenger also reported earlier in the day that some schools or conferences could elect to test players on the Monday after a game as well. Some teams like Tulane are already testing players twice a week, though it's costing $100,000 a month to fund all of the tests.
The document also goes into detail on what it would take to stop a single game or complete season. The five options for a potential stoppage of play are:
1. Lack of ability to isolate new positive cases or quarantine high-contact risk cases on campus
2. Inability to perform weekly testing
3. Campus-wide or local community test rates that are considered unsafe by local public health officials
4. Inability to perform adequate contact tracing
5. Local public health officials state that there is an inability for the hospital infrastructure to accommodate a surge in COVID-related hospitalizations.
“This document lays out the advice of health care professionals as to how to resume college sports if we can achieve an environment where COVID-19 rates are manageable. Today, sadly, the data point in the wrong direction. If there is to be college sports in the fall, we need to get a much better handle on the pandemic,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert.
In addition to in-season testing, the question of fans in the stands continues to be a hot buttoned, in-season issue. Many people differ on the percentage of fans that should be allowed or whether fans should be allowed at all.
Illinois announced that should there be a season in the fall, home games at Memorial Stadium would be limited to 20% capacity with six-foot social distancing and reserved seating. In addition, face coverings will be mandatory and tailgating will not be allowed.
This could certainly be a route many college programs elect to take as it pertains to fans in the stadiums though it is important to point out that all plans should be taken with a grain of salt.
After the most recent expansion to Tiger Stadium propelled seating to just over 100,000 the stadium at 20% capacity would hold 20,000 fans if it were to follow Illinois' model.
"I think with masks and testing, along with the appropriate people at the game, that we can put fans in the stadium," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said on the Dan Patrick Show Thursday.
The template has been set for what in-season protocols will look like. While each conference and the NCAA will likely release additional detailed protocols as well but the standards have been provided.
The only question that remains is will they be needed?