On June 1, when Division I football and men’s and women’s basketball players will be permitted to return to campus for voluntary training, it’s possible that athletes at Georgia Tech and the state’s other public Division I schools could be part of the procession.
The NCAA Division I Council voted on legislation for a June 1 return Wednesday, granting permission to schools to recommence voluntary athletic activities on campuses as long as local, state and federal regulations are followed. Since the coronavirus pandemic prompted a shutdown of sports leagues worldwide in mid-March, this is perhaps the most significant public step that the NCAA has taken toward returning to competition.
In a statement to the AJC, the Tech athletic department expressed its intent to resume athletic activities within the parameters of a safe environment for athletes and staff. The fact that the NCAA has deemed conditions regarding COVID-19 safe enough to grant permission to hold on-campus workouts would seem an indicator that, at the least, the potential exists to conduct activities safely. (Following the cancellation of its spring sports championships, the NCAA had previously voted on a ban on on-campus athletics activities through May 31.)
“Georgia Tech athletics continues to plan the return of athletic activities to campus with the health and safety of our student-athletes and staff as our top priority,” the statement read. “We are closely following guidance from the Institute, the University System of Georgia (USG), Governor Brian Kemp’s office and public health experts to determine the best way to resume these activities.”
To receive clearance, Tech and the other four Division I state schools in Georgia — Georgia, Georgia State, Georgia Southern and Kennesaw State — would have to submit a plan for its activities to the USG. Undoubtedly, officials at all schools have been preparing for the possibility of a June 1 return.
“(Wednesday’s vote) was kind of what we all expected, relative to workouts in June,” Georgia Southern athletic director Jared Benko told the AJC.
Given that the state of Georgia has already reopened gyms, a case could be made that the five USG schools might be wise to permit its football and basketball players to train in their own facilities, where staff would have control of the environment.
“The biggest thing is just a responsible approach,” Benko said. “If we’re going to have those student-athletes’ welfare front and center, then obviously you have to be very intentional and very deliberate so that whatever you do, it’s done in a responsible manner.”
Voluntary athletic activities typically are strength or conditioning workouts. By NCAA rule, they generally are overseen by a strength coach as opposed to a sport-specific coach.
Voluntary activities for other sports will be determined later.
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