Oklahoma State Slows Down as Others Find Out How Hard this is Going to Be

The news out of Alabama isn't far off what Oklahoma State expected, but the education to the student-athletes is going to be the most critical part of having football or any other college sports season.
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STILLWATER -- One of the workout/practice shirts that Oklahoma State has used recently, in fact, most of last season was "Win with Discipline" and now that shirt maybe should make a return or a new edition of the shirt could read, "Discipline to Play". 

We know Marshall University had two athletes and one staff member test positive for the COVID-19. Reports are that Nebraska had a positive. Now, Thursday afternoon the report from Alabama, confirmed by two sources (Simone Eli of CBS-42 in Birmingham, Ala. and BamaonLine.com, is that the Crimson Tide preparing for workouts allowed to begin on June 8 (Monday) by the SEC tested Tuesday, some 50 players worked out together on their own on the band field on Wednesday, and now Thursday the tests revealed five positives for coronavirus. The exposure to the other players since could create a lot more positive tests within Alabama football.

"When we tested on Monday we had nothing going on as a team after that," Oklahoma State team physician Dr. Val Gene Iven told me. "We had told them to stay away from each other, keep the social distancing. We had already told them the workout groups would be even smaller."

The first week of football student-athletes returning to campus has shown all of us something we suspected. Young people, especially well-conditioned athletes, have that pseudo "bulletproof" mentality. While most of the country hibernated during the COVID-19 pandemic, the suspicion is that many athletes went on living life the way they were used to. Not all of them did, but enough that college head coaches like the Cowboys Mike Gundy knew there would be positive tests when they brought the athletes back

More importantly, so did the Oklahoma State medical staff headed by team physician for the athletic department Dr. Iven with assistance from senior trainer and head of athletic training John Stemm and head football trainer Scott Parker. 

"We knew there would be positives (tests for COVID-19), but until you have that positive you don't know how all of it will work. I think the advantage we had was bringing the players back in phases," Dr. Iven said. 

Initially, it was the medical staff and Rod Johnson (assistant director of football operations) that met with all the players and, if needed, parents on Zoom before bringing in the first phase, 32 players that are all veteran and experienced

"In those conversations we told the players what to expect and what would happen in case of a positive test," Dr. Iven said when I asked him about the concern he has for Stillwater residents. "We had 32 players come in, three positives and we have told them to stay in. We are monitoring them. Coach Gundy has reinforced that they must stay put. Now, we'll test the primary contact list (individuals exposed to those three players) tomorrow and then we'll know more."

For now, the operation is on hold, somewhat be design. Coaches are back at home, players are staying in their housing, and the facility is being sanitized completely. The next phase has been delayed until June 11. The next phase after that won't be until at least June 15. 

Iven said a major concern is the support staff including Rod Johnson, who is running around handling the needs of the players. Then the training staff, and it is important to keep all of them from contracting the virus. 

"We have a good staff," Dr. Iven said. They know these kids and it's important we have them all. For instance, we have one trainer for women's soccer and they are coming in three weeks. I need that person to be able to take care of that team. I lose them and it's a problem. We can't lose any of our people, so we have to be careful about this." 

Dr. Iven said other schools are contacting Oklahoma State. In between, what has been a busy schedule, he personally has returned several calls to other schools. He agreed with my final question and the answer that I already knew.

"Yes, no question," Dr. Iven said when asked if the football season and any college sports season coming up is dependent on 18-23-year-old student athletes staying disciplined and not taking chances with the COVID-19. 

"They will have to control their behavior and don't do anything that can bring the virus back to the team."