On Thursday, LSU released phase one of its plan to start the reopening process of the campus. It'll be a slow burn that will likely take many weeks and months to fulfill but any kind of progress is noteworthy, not just for the return of sports but to normalcy.
Phase one of reopening the campus will begin on May 18 with three main goals:
- Bring back critical personnel only, in a very limited capacity
- Allow facilities time to prepare buildings and develop plans for occupancy
- Follow physical distancing required by the state
The first phase will require 25% of critical personnel to complete but the date it will be put into effect (May 18), relies heavily on Louisiana's stay-at-home order. LSU interim president Tom Galligan said if the stay-at-home order, which is currently set through May 15, is further pushed back by governor John Bel Edwards, then the timeline for phase one will be pushed back as well.
So what does all of this mean for football and the athletic department? Well, not much. The school will continue to abide by the guidelines handed down by the SEC. Currently, all athletic events and gatherings have been suspended through May 31.
Galligan did say in a virtual meeting that the plan is for campus to be open by the fall and that this first phase is the first step in accomplishing that goal.
“We’re absolutely planning to open in fall,” Galligan said. “We’re going to get back to business, but we’re going to do it safely.”
If campus is open by the fall and students are allowed to return for class, that would be a major development and a strong indication that college athletics would be allowed to resume. Pretty much all of the conferences are in agreement that school campuses would need to be open and in session for college sports to return.
"Our players are students. If we're not in college, we're not having contests," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told CBS Sports after a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence and conference commissioners a few weeks back. "Our message was, we need to get universities and colleges back open, that we were education-based programs, and we weren't going to have sports until we had something closer to normal college going on."
Galligan was asked about a potential return of college athletics and said sports like football returning in the fall would be an emotional boost and proof that life is getting back to normal.
“I think it’s important to play the season,” Galligan said. “Will it be played as played in previous years? It may be a little bit different in some ways, but it’s important to play the season and I hope we do so."