SEC coaches, administrators respond to league's decision to reopen campuses to athletes
If you missed the big news out of the Southeastern Conference on Friday, the league has passed a vote allowing student-athletes to return to campus starting Monday, June 8.
It should be noted that programs will not be required to open on June 8 and athletes return to campus is voluntary.
Upon athletes return to campus, only strength and conditioning staffs will be allowed to work with the players.
Following the news, the reaction from SEC leaders has begun to file in. (This list will be updated as more statements are released)
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn
“We appreciate the SEC president and chancellors’ decision to allow voluntary in-person athletic activities beginning June 8. The SEC and Auburn leadership have been tremendous through this process and we appreciate the efforts of the SEC Task Force which includes our team physician, Dr. Michael Goodlett. This is an important first step toward having a season this fall and we will continue to collectively work together as our top priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff.”
— Coach Gus Malzahn (@CoachGusMalzahn) May 22, 2020
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman
“I’m thankful for all the people that have spent a lot of time and effort in making these decisions this week. The most important part in all of this is the health and well-being of our student-athletes. We are confident in our plan to bring our guys back to campus where our resources are here to help them academically, emotionally and physically. For us as a new staff, we can’t wait to see them and continue to build our trust with one another.”
Florida AD Scott Stricklin
“UF’s Student-Athlete Wellness Group has worked closely with UF Health officials on a plan to integrate Florida Gators athletes back on campus. They have developed a gradual phasing program to prevent an influx of a large number of student-athletes returning at once. This plan involves Gators FB, Gators VB and Gators Soccer athletes returning in phases during June. Gator student-athletes will be screened and tested through a partnership with UF Health to promote a safer environment for our Gators.”
LSU coach Ed Orgeron
“I want to thank Scott Woodward and Greg Sankey for putting us in a position to get our team back on campus. Our administration has worked very hard to make sure that all of the necessary safety procedures and protocols are in place to keep our team safe and healthy. This is a great first step to take in order for us to get back to playing the great game of college football in the fall.”
South Carolina AD Ray Tanner
“Based on the decision today by the Southeastern Conference Presidents and Chancellors, the University of South Carolina will be ready to host football student-athletes on campus for voluntary workouts on June 8. They will be on campus several days before to get tested for the COVID-19 virus. We are excited to have our student-athletes back on campus. Their health, safety and well-being are our number one priority. Our staff and medical team have developed a thorough set of protocols that exceed CDC guidelines and will help our student-athletes through the transition back to campus.”
“I am pleased that we will bring our student-athletes back to campus on June 8 for conditioning and I have confidence in our Department of Athletics to follow public health protocols to mitigate risk to our athletes, coaches and training staff,” said UofSC President Bob Caslen. “This is another step toward the phased reopening of our campus and another sign that we are ready to get back to the business of educating our next generation of leaders.”
Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer
“We are prepared and excited for the return of student-athletes to campus. “Health and safety have been our top priority as we’ve gone about this planning process, and we’ll continue to follow guidance from medical experts and health officials as we navigate the coming weeks.
“Our staff and student-athletes should be prepared for a ‘new normal,’ as we’ll be implementing changes to how everyone accesses and uses our facilities. We plan to be extremely diligent in maintaining a healthy environment for our student-athletes, coaches and support staffs. In the coming days, we’ll execute procedures enabling student-athletes to return, with members of our football program being the first to arrive. We will conduct screening leading up to the resumption of activities on June 8.
“I continue to appreciate the guidance of the SEC’s medical taskforce as well as the outstanding leadership of Commissioner Sankey and our chancellors and presidents throughout the SEC.”
Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork
“The health and safety of our student-athletes is the top priority as they are allowed to return to our world-class facilities starting Monday, June 8 for voluntary workouts. Texas A&M Athletics has constantly gathered input from local health officials, and we have been very busy planning for the return to athletic activity. We are ready for this moment, and I want to thank our Health and Performance working group for putting together a great plan.”
Interestingly, it sounds like Kentucky has yet to decide whether to open its campus up to student-athletes by June 8.
Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart
“With the NCAA and SEC approving a return to activity, we will now work with our partners at the state and local government and university levels to determine the date that our student-athletes will come back. We will not compromise the safety and well-being of our student-athletes in this process, taking all possible precautions. Once we take this important step in returning to activity, we will shift our focus to preparing to return to play and bringing the entire UK family – student-athletes, coaches and fans alike – back together this fall in a responsible and safe way.”