Louisville became the first ACC school to announce a return to voluntary workouts and will start June 8, with coronavirus testing and protocols in place to try to ensure a safe environment.
Unlike several Power 5 conferences, the ACC opted to allow universities to make their own decisions about when they allow student-athletes to return to campus now that the NCAA lifted a moratorium on workouts starting June 1.
Because the league is spread across nine different states, from Florida to New York, it made the most sense to defer to schools to make more localized decisions based on what is happening in their area. ACC athletic directors have calls twice a week to discuss their plans. On their call Thursday, a safe return to campus was one of the biggest discussions.
“I think would they love it to be uniformity all the time, but everybody recognizes these are unprecedented times and it’s not going to happen exactly the same way. Some will come on probably slower and later than Louisville,” athletics director Vince Tyra said in a teleconference.
It is a reality that coaches and athletic directors across the conference have accepted. Although nearly every school anticipates allowing student-athletes back at some point in June, Wake Forest might not be ready until July. Exactly when student-athletes are allowed back remains up to university presidents or chancellors and state government officials.
“We’re all in the same scenario and with this, I’ve shared our plan with the other ADs in the ACC and I like to hear what they’re doing,” Tyra said. “They’ve got their own individual tweaks that they all have. I was on the phone with Dan Radakovich at Clemson earlier this morning and talking about where we are with our plan versus their plan. I know Dabo (Swinney’s) as anxious as anyone, much like Coach (Scott) Satterfield, to see his players agai,n and so we want to share concepts because they seem to be more in stride with us and vice versa.
“They’re all planning for it. It’s going to come in different stages. I think there’s a difference between private and public universities and I think there’s a difference in states that are going to dictate it. But for us, we’re fortunate we have the great U of L Health to help us look at these things and make sure we’re hearing the medical professionals that are smarter than us and certainly the government officials that provide guidance.”
Louisville will have a phased approach, starting with 30 football players, 15 men’s basketball players and 15 women’s basketball players returning to campus May 27. The group would begin coronavirus testing and physicals on June 3 and be ready to participate in voluntary workouts June 8. Tyra said the university has purchased tens of thousands of masks and sanitizer in 55-gallon barrels. Players won’t be allowed to shower in the facility after workouts and will be required to observe social distancing guidelines.
If there is a positive test, Tyra said they have quarantining protocols they will follow, and access to a contact tracing app as well.
Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall did not have a date for his team’s return to campus, saying it would happen when the state of Virginia and the university allow it. During a zoom call with reporters, Mendenhall said schools returning earlier could be at an advantage, though there could be a benefit to waiting, too.
“Training and structure is really helpful otherwise we wouldn’t provide it. And so to have full-time strength coaches, full-time nutritionists, and our trainers, our sports medicine people to be able to work one-on-one with our players and design and periodize programming and give them all the equipment they need and the fueling they need and the rest they need and the recovery, it’s invaluable,” Mendenhall said. “So anyone that’s providing that certainly could have an advantage; however, it still remains to be seen whether it’s safe to do so and it still remains to be seen if June 1 is some magical date where the data has now supported people coming back. It might work the other way, where those coming back early might then have to stop, regroup and hold because it’s too early.
“The biggest question that each state is wrestling with, each institution is wrestling with, and relying on the medical community to help us, is it appropriate to come back yet?”