The Southeastern Conference presidents and officials met on Friday to vote on whether or not to allow voluntary football activities to resume on its campuses on June 8. As expected, the turnout was in favor of resuming activities, and Georgia is joining a number of other SEC programs by wasting no time in getting its players back on campus.
This comes two days after the NCAA Division I Council agreed to lift the temporary ban on athletics due to COVID-19 as it concerns on-campus activities.
UGA football’s official Twitter account made the announcement Friday afternoon to deliver the good news.
Even though the SEC is allowing athletes back on campus as early as June 8, it doesn’t mean that practices will begin on that date. It simply means that players can return to use the facilities and starting working out together. For Georgia, the players will be under head strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair. During that time, coaches will be able to spend at most eight hours a week with the players with six of those coming in a workout setting and two more in a classroom setting.
Unlike most programs, the Georgia football team has been out commission longer than most. UGA’s spring break started on March 7 and that was the week that was around the time the NCAA suspended all spring activities. That means that the players never got to reunite back together as a team.
Classes were suspended on March 12 and UGA announced the suspension of spring drills the next day. A couple of days later the university moved classes to online instruction for the rest of the semester, and eventually all spring activities were cancelled altogether. That included the rest of spring drills and the annual G-Day scrimmage that was supposed to take place on April 18.
UGA’s decision to reopen its facility came just a few hours after the SEC made their decision.
“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.”
A few hours later Georgia Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sports Medicine Ron Courson laid out the university’s initial plans following the Twitter post.
Included in the steps is that all student athletes will receive COVID-19 tests. In an email sent out, Courson acknowledged that plans are still being made. Here’s what he had to say, per UGASports Anthony Dasher.
• “First and foremost, our focus is on health and safety. We are taking a collaborative approach that involves public health, community health care system, sports medicine, sports performance, sports nutrition, and sport coaches working together to develop a plan and ensure each student-athlete has an individualized plan for return.”
• “We will conduct COVID testing and perform medical evaluations on all student-athletes, and they must be medically cleared prior to any physical activity. We will identify any student-athletes and staff who may be more vulnerable due to existing health conditions, and ensure that we have an individualized plan of care for their safe return to sport or work based upon medical guidance.”
• “Our student-athletes have had an unprecedented lay-off from sports, and we have to be smart about how we progress back to activity during this transition period. Our strength and conditioning return-to-sport plan will be based on national consensus guidelines developed by a joint task force, with representatives from the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association. It involves starting with a reduced volume of work and modified work-rest ratios with a gradual increase, allowing the student-athletes to acclimate to both the environment with heat and humidity, as well as building up exercise tolerance.”
• “We will have developed a detailed plan to utilize the strength and conditioning facilities that follows the State of Georgia Executive order for re-opening of exercise facilities, including screening procedures, small groups using social distancing, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols.”
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart even chimed in and indicated that the wait won’t be long.
“We’re excited to now know when players can begin returning to campus. 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,” Smart said. “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 to begin working toward what we hope is a regular season in the fall.”
Georgia joins Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida LSU, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M in announcing they will also be reopening its football facilities. Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt have yet set a date.