TAMPA, JUNE 9, 2020 – More than 75 members of the USF Football team will return to voluntary on-campus athletic activities on Wednesday, June 10 following approval of the University’s phased return plan by the USF Board of Trustees.
“We are excited to begin the phased return of student-athletes to campus for voluntary workouts to prepare for competition, starting this week with members of the football team, while we continue to be very mindful of the dangers the current pandemic and prioritize our student-athletes health and safety first,” Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly said. “Director of Sports Medicine Steve Walz and our Infection Response Team (IRT) have done a great job developing a comprehensive and detailed plan for the safe return of our student-athletes and a limited number of staff while working in conjunction with the University, state and local authorities and CDC guidelines.”
The initial phase of USF Athletics return involves student-athletes from the football program and 25 percent of staff and employees, consisting mostly of sports medicine, strength and conditioning, facilities and housekeeping professionals. All returning student-athletes and staff interacting with student-athletes will be tested for COVID-19 before being granted access to facilities. They will also receive mandatory COVID-19 safety and hygiene training prior to returning to use facilities that will maintain limited occupancy.
The return is being conducted with the implementation of protocols for screening, distancing, cleaning, sanitation and use of personal protective equipment to minimize the risk and potential spread of COVID-19. All staff and student-athletes entering USF Athletics facilities will be required to enter and exit facilities through designated entrances at designated times, undergo daily screening and temperature checks, wear face masks provided on entry, practice physical distancing and use hand sanitizer and gloves when applicable. Facilities and equipment will be regularly disinfected, including high transit areas and high touch surfaces and equipment following each use.
Initial workouts for student-athletes in the football program are being conducted in small groups of around 10. To allow for proper social distancing, Athletics has expanded its facility footprint by moving weight equipment to outdoor locations under tents. Initial athletic activities will be occurring outside of the Lee Roy Selmon Athletics Center.
Student-athletes from other USF sports teams will arrive on campus throughout the summer in a phased approach. The men’s and women’s basketball teams are slated to begin voluntary on-campus workouts on June 15 at the Muma Center followed by the return of fall sports student-athletes in men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country on July 6. A second wave of football student-athletes is scheduled to return to campus the second week of July and Athletics plans for the return of student-athletes from all programs to on-campus when the fall semester commences in late August.
“We are excited to get our student-athletes back engaged in workouts but also very cautious to mitigate the exposure to the virus and protect their health and safety while providing a safe arena for their return,” Walz said. “We are fortunate to have great partners within the University, especially USF Health and Student Health Services, as well as medical professionals across the country to assist in devising this plan. Our plan is a living document and will adapt as the pandemic changes within the country, our state, and our university.”
Upon their return to Tampa, student-athletes will be evaluated and cleared by the sports medicine staff and monitored daily. All will be expected to adhere to an abundance of health and safety protocols.
NCAA regulations permit only strength and conditioning personnel to supervise voluntary on-campus athletics activities through the month of June. Organized practices currently remain prohibited by the NCAA in all sports.
“I appreciate the great work done by our team physicians and the close consultation with USF Health as well as local and national authorities as we put together a plan that is mindful of the safety of our student-athletes, staff and community, while phasing the return of our sports programs as quickly as we feel comfortable,” Kelly said. “A lot of work has been done by our facilities and strength staff to ensure the safest environment we can create and provide social distancing and preventative measures, such as hand sanitizer and guidance signage, at numerous locations throughout our facilities. We will continue to monitor and navigate changes in the pandemic and adjust accordingly with safety in mind.”
USF Athletics will continue to monitor and evaluate policies on physical spacing, contact tracing, testing and other safety requirements as more information is made available from the CDC, state and local officials, the American Athletic Conference and the NCAA.