BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Southeastern Conference announced Friday that its 14 members could resume in-person athletics activities on campuses at each university's discretion beginning June 8.
June 8 will begin a "transition period that will allow student-athletes to gradually adapt to full training and sports activity after this recent period of inactivity," according to the SEC announcement.
It comes with strict guidelines, due to the impact of COVID-19. Each university must develop a plan in accordance with state and local health guidelines. The NCAA has already limited any athletics activities to just voluntary ones supervised by strength and conditioning personnel.
In addition to disinfecting measures like facility cleaning and standard social distancing, the SEC recommends its schools enact a three-stage screening process before student-athletes arrive on campus, within 72 hours of entering facilities and on a daily basis; test symptompatic team members and personnel; immediately isolate anyone tested for or diagnosed with COVID-19; enact contact tracing; and educate team members on best health and welness practices.
"We’re excited to now know when players can begin returning to campus," Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart said in a team release. "We’ll be coordinating our efforts with the medical staff keeping the primary focus on health and safety of our student-athletes and those working directly with them during this time. We’ll be working in the coming days on finalizing plans to implement the return of our players. I’m sure they are looking forward to returning and begin working toward what we hope is a regular season in the fall."
ATHENS, GEORGIA - NOVEMBER 23: The Texas A&M Aggies offense faces off against the Georgia Bulldogs defense in the second half at Sanford Stadium on November 23, 2019 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
"I’m sure everyone is pleased to now have direction from both the NCAA and the SEC on some parameters for bringing student-athletes back to campus in cooperation with the University System of Georgia," UGA athletic director Greg McGarity said. "It’s only the first step and there are many details still to be determined on every campus. We’ll certainly be driven by the medical community and our sports medicine staff led by Ron Courson. Guidelines and enhanced health and safety measures will be followed to the letter. Again, this is only the first step with further details and plans coming over the next several days and weeks."
The Conference's Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force will remain active to continue guiding the universities as they prepare for a return to competition, according to the SEC announcement. The task force was created in April and is "comprised of a cross-section of leading public health, infectious disease and sports medicine professionals from across the SEC's 14 member institutions," the SEC said.
"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," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. "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."
Suspension of in-person camps and coaches' clinics conducted by SEC institutions will remain in effect until July 31. A current waiver that permits eight hours of virtual film review has been extended through June 30 for football and basketball.