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FILE - In this March 11, 2020, file photo, Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey speaks at a press conference in Nashville, Tenn. The Power Five conferences spent $350,000 on lobbying in the first three months of 2020, more than they had previously spent in any full year, as part of a coordinated effort to influence Congress on legislation affecting the ability of college athletes to earn endorsement money. The Southeastern Conference was the biggest spender, hiring three lobbying firms and paying them a total of $140,000, according to lobbying disclosure forms reviewed by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

SEC announces return for athletes

SEC fans have been waiting for an announcement on the return of sports since March 12, when the conference suspended all in-person athletic events.

Earlier today, that announcement finally came.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said that universities can open for voluntary activities, starting June 8.

“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.”

Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, talks about the decision to cancel the remaining games in the SEC NCAA college basketball tournament Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. The conference tournament was cancelled Thursday due to coronavirus concerns. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The decision was with the guidance of the Conference’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force.

According to SEC sports, the task forces consist of leading public health, infectious disease and sports medicine professionals from across the SEC’s 14-member institutions.

Positive Signs

The decision to open up was expected by many. However, it is still an encouraging sign.

The plan set forth by the SEC could be used as a skeleton for other conferences, like the Big 12 and the Pac 12, who will have to decide for themselves when they will open.

Many feel that the Power 5 leaders are moving in sync with one another, as this caller mentioned on the Paul Finebaum Show on the SEC Network.

FILE – In this Sept. 1, 2018, file photo, Florida head coach Dan Mullen runs onto the field with his players before an NCAA college football game against Charleston Southern, in Gainesville, Fla. The Swamp is sold out for the first time in nearly three years. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

SEC Guidelines

Although each school will decide how to best open up, the SEC issued general guidelines for the return of student-athletes and coaches to campus. Some of those points are:

  • Athletes will be tested for COVID-19 before they are allowed to take part in team activities. Additionally, players and team personnel will be tested daily.
  • Immediate isolation of team members who are 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.

Florida’s Plan

The decision allowing athletes to come back was finalized today. However, athletic directors across the country have been working on plans since seasons were canceled.

Scott Stricklin, the Athletic Director at the University of Florida, has decided that the safest way for UF athletes to come back will be in waves.

The first wave, made up of returning football players, will come back to campus on May 26. These athletes will go through COVID-19 testing and physicals.

After the initial wave, returning soccer and volleyball student-athletes will start coming back on June 15, and returning men’s and women’s basketball players on June 29, according to floridagators.com.

New student-athletes in football, soccer, men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball will begin arriving on July 1.

After the initial testing and athletes get cleared, they will be monitored with daily temperature checks and health questionnaires. Athletes will also be required to wear personal-protection equipment for any appointment, except weightlifting.

Gym equipment will be sanitized after every session and then again at the end of each day.

Other Factors

Opening schools for workouts is a big step, but there are still some factors that need to be worked out. For example, football programs need to make sure that there is enough time for players to get in proper shape.

Also, will the incoming guys have time to adjust?

These questions are all going to have to be answered in the future. For now, let’s just be happy with the good news sports fans received today.

Sound used in this story courtesy of ESPN/ABC Newscall

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