The SEC kicked off a newsy Friday when it announced its COVID-19 management requirements for the upcoming fall season. The conference will require student-athletes to be tested at least twice a week through a PCR test, typically six and three days ahead of competition.
The Medical Guidance Task Force also advised the conference to search for alternative testing methods that would potentially allow for a third test each week closer to the actual game. As for masking, in football, volleyball and soccer, all coaches, staff and personnel will be required to wear masks on the sideline.
"Our Medical Task Force is producing an effective strategy for testing and monitoring, which complements the vigilant day-to-day efforts of our campuses to establish and maintain healthy environments in which our student-athletes can train and compete," said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. "Our health experts have guided us though each stage of preparation for the safe return of activity and, together with the medical staffs embedded within our athletics programs, we will continue to monitor developments around the virus and evolve our plan to meet the health needs of our student-athletes."
If a student-athlete does test positive with COVID-19 or comes into contact with some that has tested positive, the athlete must quarantine for 14 days regardless of further testing.
The conference guidelines come on the heels of a reported conversation between student-athletes and the SEC about the health protocols for the upcoming season. Athletes expressed their concern about the 2020 season in a Washington Post article.
“We want to play. We want to see football. We want to return to normal as much as possible,” Texas A&M linebacker Keeath Magee II said in the WaPo article. “But it’s just that with all this uncertainty, all this stuff that’s still circulating in the air, y’all know it kind of leaves some of us still scratching my head. I feel like the college campus is the one thing that you can’t control.”
More than 20 Power 5 players have elected to sit out the season due to COVID-19 concerns. In its statement, the SEC acknowledged that any athlete who wishes to sit out due to concerns will have their scholarships honored.
Here are the testing protocols the conference released:
- The SEC will coordinate centralized testing through a third-party provider to ensure consistency in surveillance and pre-competition testing. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the current standard testing method for the COVID-19 virus. Alternative testing methods may be considered if sufficient data develops to support those methods.
- In the sport of football, student-athletes and others in direct contact with the program will receive a PCR surveillance test at least twice weekly during competition, typically six days and three days prior to competition. The Task Force recommends exploring alternative testing methods that will accommodate a third test, in addition to the two required PCR tests, that will provide for the reliability and rapid response necessary for diagnostic testing in a timeframe closer to competition.
- In the sports of volleyball and soccer, student-athletes and others in direct contact with the program will receive a PCR surveillance test at least twice weekly during competition, with one to occur three days prior to the first competition of the week. The Task Force recommends exploring alternative testing methods that will accommodate a third test, in addition to the two required PCR tests, that will provide for the reliability and rapid response necessary for diagnostic testing in a timeframe closer to the first competition of the week.
- In the sport of cross country, student-athletes and others in direct contact with the program will receive a PCR surveillance test at least once per week during competition, with that test to occur three days prior to each competition.