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The Southeastern Conference announced on Friday that its schools will be able to bring athletes in all sports back to campus for voluntary activities starting June 8 after being shut down to the coronavirus pandemic, at the discretion of each school. The University of South Carolina will have its football players ready to go that day.
Voluntary in-person athletics activities will resume under protocols and procedures that have been developed by the USC athletics department and medical advisors.
"Based on the decision today by the Southeastern Conference Presidents and Chancellors, the University of South Carolina will be ready to host football student-athletes on campus for voluntary workouts on June 8," said USC athletics director Ray Tanner in a press release. "They will return to campus several days before to get tested for the COVID-19 virus.
"We are excited to have our student-athletes back on campus. Their health, safety and well-being are our No. 1 priority. Our staff and medical team have developed a thorough set of protocols that exceed CDC guidelines and will help our student-athletes through the transition back to campus."
The SEC had suspended all athletics activities through May 31 because of the coronavirus. June 1 will begin a transition period that will allow student-athletes to get tested for the virus on campus as well as gradually adapt to the full training and sports activities.
Tanner said the other fall sports and the men's and women's basketball programs will begin their voluntary workouts at a later date.
There have been several protocols developed by a school task force to help protect all involved from the coronavirus. Some of the protocols are:
- Student-athletes will receive a COVID-19 and antibody test upon arrival on campus. They will also receive a daily symptoms and temperature check and trace contacting will take place.
- All facilities used by student-athletes have undergone a strict cleaning process to ensure they have been fully disinfected and will include additional hand sanitizing stations.
- All student-athletes and staff are required to wear face coverings in public spaces and wash their hands frequently.
- Physical distancing with staff and student-athletes will be emphasized.
- There are extensive educational efforts including videos, in-person communication and signage.
Tanner said the school has tried its best to come up with a way to make conditions as safe as possible for all involved.
"It's a daunting task," he said. "It's like playing a game; you want to win. We want to have the mitigation in place to make it a very successful situation at the university."
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, as well as men's and women's basketball.
Clustering will be used in voluntary workouts and in weight rooms. Tanner said the clusters will be from four to six players and not necessarily will be of one position group.
"We'll do our testing in clusters as well and that will allow them be isolated (if needed) when we get tests back," Tanner said.
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