SEC votes to allow voluntary workouts to resume June 8

Joel Coleman

Progress continues to be made towards a return to college sports and on Friday, the Southeastern Conference put up another green light that aids in that process.

SEC leaders voted on Friday to allow voluntary workouts to resume effective June 8. This follows the NCAA's decision earlier this week to lift the on-campus training ban on June 1. The SEC states all its activity, when it resumes, should take place under strict supervision of designated university personnel and safety guidelines developed by each institution.

In a statement released by the SEC, league commissioner Greg Sankey noted the conference is mindful of the safety of its athletes as it gears towards getting things up and running on schedule this coming school year.

"The safe and healthy return of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and our greater university communities have been and will continue to serve as our guiding principle as we navigate this complex and constantly-evolving situation,” Sankey said. “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. Thanks to the blueprint established by our Task Force and the dedicated efforts of our universities and their athletics programs, we will be able to provide our student-athletes with far better health and wellness education, medical and psychological care and supervision than they would otherwise receive on their own while off campus or training at public facilities as states continue to reopen.”

Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen also addressed the situation later on Friday in a statement posted to Twitter.

"Today's vote by the Southeastern Conference and Wednesday's vote by the NCAA Division I Council are important steps in the direction of beginning the process toward welcoming our student-athletes back to campus and preparing to begin the fall sports season as currently scheduled," Cohen said in the statement. "We have been strategically working and collaborating with medical professionals, our university leadership, our coaching staffs and our conference leadership on preparing and implementing a plan based on operating guidelines for our student-athletes and staffs to return to campus to take part in voluntary athletic activities on June 8. More information and details of the plan will be announced in the near future. The safe and healthy return of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and campus community has and will continue to be our highest priority."

While a step in the direction towards the return to sports, this is far from a resumption of normal offseason activities. Once players get back to campuses, things will be different than usual. In an article published earlier this week by Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger, outlined it this way on the football front:

And, yes, for the first couple of weeks, there are no footballs allowed. “They are going to want to pick up the ball, but look at re-socialization guidelines: you want to avoid shared equipment in the first phase,” says Mary McLendon, an associate athletic director at Mississippi State overseeing the school’s reopening. Programs plan to follow CDC and NCAA guidelines, phasing in workouts slowly and keeping most to very small groups.

Still, Friday's announcement is no doubt a significant step. Here is the remainder of the SEC release that outlines how things will be handled upon the resumption of activities:

As part of its recommendations, the Task Force prepared a series of best practices for screening, testing, monitoring, tracing, social distancing and maintaining cleaned environments. These recommendations will serve as a roadmap for each school prior to and upon the return of student-athletes to their campuses.

“While each institution will make its own decisions in creating defined plans to safely return student-athletes to activity, it is essential to employ a collaborative approach that involves input from public health officials, coaches, sports medicine staff, sports performance personnel and student-athletes,” Sankey said. “Elements of the Task Force recommendations provided key guidance for determining the date of the return to activity.”

In addition to standard infection prevention measures as approved by public health authorities such as facility cleaning and social distancing, recommended enhanced health and safety 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 3-stage screening process that involves screening before student-athletes arrive 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

During the month of June, NCAA regulations permit only strength and conditioning personnel to supervise voluntary on-campus athletics activities in the sports of football and men’s & women’s basketball. A current waiver that permits eight (8) hours of virtual film review has been extended through June 30 for football and basketball.

other required physical activities remain prohibited in all sports. A previously announced suspension of in-person camps and coaches clinics conducted by SEC institutions remains in effect until July 31.