KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Southeastern Conference announced voluntary in-person athletics activities may resume on SEC campuses, at the discretion of each university, beginning June 8.
The SEC suspended all athletic activities through May 31 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
June 8 will begin a transition period that will allow student-athletes to gradually adapt to full training and sports activity after the time off, under strict supervision and safety guidelines developed by each university.
Certain activities will be permitted on the ability to participate in controlled and safe environments, under plans developed by each university, while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
The decision to resume athletics activities, which at this time is limited by the NCAA to voluntary activities supervised by strength and conditioning personnel, was made with the guidance of the Conference's Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force.
The Task Force will remain active to provide continued advice and guidance to the SEC and its members as they prepare for a return to competition.
"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," said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. "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."
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 hours of virtual film review has been extended through June 30 for football and basketball.
Consistent with NCAA regulations, organized practices and 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.
"We are prepared and excited for the return of student-athletes to campus," Tennessee Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer said. "Health and safety have been our top priority as we've gone about this planning process, and we'll continue to follow guidance from medical experts and health officials as we navigate the coming weeks. Our staff and student-athletes should be prepared for a 'new normal,' as we'll be implementing changes to how everyone accesses and uses our facilities. We plan to be extremely diligent in maintaining a healthy environment for our student-athletes, coaches and support staffs. In the coming days, we'll execute procedures enabling student-athletes to return, with members of our football program being the first to arrive. We will conduct screening leading up to the resumption of activities on June 8. I continue to appreciate the guidance of the SEC's medical taskforce as well as the outstanding leadership of Commissioner Sankey and our chancellors and presidents throughout the SEC."
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