The LSU football program and the Southeastern Conference will resume voluntary on-campus training June 8, ending a months-long suspension of athletic activities across the league and marking a critical step toward fall competition.
The SEC announced Friday student-athletes in football and men’s and women’s basketball can train “under strict supervision of designated university personnel and safety guidelines developed by each institution.”
Member schools, including LSU, followed with individual announcements. Though the NCAA decided Friday athletic activities can resume in all sports June 1, LSU only cleared its football players to begin voluntary in-person training. It has not announced plans for student-athletes in other sports.
The conference also extended a waiver through the end of June allowing eight hours per week of virtual film review for football and basketball teams.
“At this time, we are preparing to begin the fall sports season as currently scheduled,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement, “and this limited resumption of voluntary athletic activities on June 8 is an important initial step in that process.”
Student-athletes had trained by themselves, away from campus and without supervision, since the coronavirus pandemic forced the shutdown of sports across the country in mid-March.
After canceling its remaining seasons and championship events, the SEC suspended all athletic activities, including practices and meetings, through May 31. It allowed video communication between coaches and players.
LSU football will begin voluntary in-person training June 8 with “stringent health protocols in place,” interim LSU president Tom Galligan said Friday during a Board of Supervisors meeting.
Beginning June 8, SEC schools can enter a transitional period designed to ease student-athletes back into their sports after months of inactivity. Players may only train with strength and conditioning coaches until June 30, according to NCAA regulations set earlier this week, and schools must provide football players with funds equal to a summer athletic scholarship to cover meals, housing and expenses.
“Under plans developed by each university and consistent with state and local health directives, certain activities will be permitted based on the ability to participate in controlled and safe environments, while also maintaining recommended social distancing measures,” the SEC said.
At LSU, student-athletes may return to campus before June 8 as long as they do not participate in athletic activities, senior associate athletic director Robert Munson said. They can undergo physicals, medical screenings and testing, as well as receive academic or compliance assistance.
As student-athletes return to their respective campuses next month, they will train under recommendations set by the SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force, a group of public health leaders, infectious disease experts and sports medicine professionals from across the conference. It included Dr. Catherine O’Neal, an infectious disease specialist at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.
The task force set a series of guidelines in addition to standard infection prevention measures. The conference said schools will use steps, including a three-stage screening process, testing protocols and immediate isolation of team members diagnosed with COVID-19, before and upon the return of student-athletes to campus.
With the task force recommendations as a guide, LSU announced additional health protocols in its athletic buildings:
- Strict and daily screening for student-athletes and staff on campus, including temperature checks and CDC questionnaire for entry to athletics facilities.
- Members of the athletic training staff have been trained and certified in contact tracing.
- Education component required for all student-athletes and staff and provided to parents and guardians before the return of student-athletes.
- Secured a sound testing approach that addresses the need for both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antibody data.
- Strategic physical distancing protocols for volunteer in-person activities.
- Quarantine and isolation procedures.
- Working with local and state agencies to secure necessary PPE to provide a safe environment that will help to minimize risk of viral spread.
- Addressing dietary needs through modified performance nutrition center guidelines.
So this must be a little glimpse into how 1945 felt, waiting for news of some far-flung capital falling to overwhelming Allied forces.
The SEC’s decision came two days after the NCAA Division I Council voted to allow voluntary on-campus athletic training to resume June 1 for football and basketball teams. The NCAA cleared the way for individual conferences and schools to make decisions based on state regulations.
Before the vote, LSU had prepared for its football players to return sometime in June. Assistant coaches began working in the football operations building May 4, and over the past few weeks, LSU developed protocols and guidelines for its players when they reconvened on campus.
Student-athletes returning to campus will mark the second part of athletic director Scott Woodward’s three-pronged approach to regaining some sense of normalcy within the athletic department. The final step involves a decision on the start of football season itself and whether or not fans will attend the games, expected later this summer.
As student-athletes return, Woodward said he thinks LSU can keep them healthier than they are living at home, a belief echoed by Sankey. Schools can self-quarantine players, control their exposure to other people, regulate meals, provide medical care and clean weight rooms on a regular basis.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes is our top priority,” Woodward said in a statement. “We believe our student-athletes can and will receive the best possible care under the daily and strict supervision of our medical personnel and athletic trainers and in a facility designed to accommodate the unique needs of elite-level athletes.”
The NCAA Division I Council voted Wednesday to let a moratorium on voluntary workouts on campus expire at the end of the month, clearing the w…
LSU will screen student-athletes when they arrive on campus. Once football players return and clear health testing, they will register for summer classes and begin working out with strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt.
“That’s a big step that we’re going to bring the players back,” coach Ed Orgeron said Friday on WNXX-FM as the SEC made its announcement. “That’s to get them ready for the season.”
Voluntary in-person training will help prepare football players for a potential season. The NCAA prohibited football and basketball teams from required activities through the end of June, but without setbacks, schools might begin organized preseason workouts later this summer — a vital step for college football to happen this fall.
With its football players on campus, the LSU athletic department can find out if its health protocols work on a small group, setting the stage for a larger return of students to campus. The school has begun easing toward regular operations, though it will look different this fall.
“We do well with the small group,” LSU interim president Tom Galligan said, “all of the sudden, we can start thinking about bigger groups.”
Brooks Kubena and Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.