Athletic director Jim Sterk speaks during a press conference (copy)

Athletic director Jim Sterk, shown here in December 2018, said Friday that Missouri and the rest of the SEC can begin in-person workouts on campus on June 8 for football and men’s and women’s basketball players.

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The Southeastern Conference has voted to allow voluntary in-person workouts on its campuses, including Missouri, beginning June 8 for student-athletes, the conference announced Friday. It marks a significant step toward the return of fall collegiate sports.

Missouri will have football and men’s basketball and women’s basketball student-athletes on campus June 8 and will have a staggered plan for other sports next week, according to an MU spokesperson. Deputy athletic director of communications Nick Joos told the Missourian via email that the outcome of the vote was what Missouri supported.

The decision comes two days after the NCAA announced that it will lift a moratorium on football and men’s and women’s basketball workouts on June 1. The NCAA lifted the moratorium for other sports Friday.

Athletic director Jim Sterk told the Missourian on Thursday that officials “need to continue to make steps to move forward and we can’t just do it all at once.” The conference wants June 8 to mark the beginning of a transition period for student-athletes after months without full training.

“The health, safety and well-being of Mizzou’s student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans is paramount and will be at the forefront in our decision-making process regarding the challenges we face with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sterk said in a release. “Our goal remains an on time start to the fall sports season for all of our teams, and having football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball players return June 8 for voluntary workouts is the first step on that journey forward in today’s challenging climate. I expect that at some point down the road the NCAA and SEC will allow student-athletes from other sports to return, and when they do, we will likely phase those in starting with the remaining fall sports teams.”

The resumption of athletic activities is limited by the NCAA at this time to voluntary activities supervised by strength and conditioning personnel.

Each university will have similar safety guidelines under “strict supervision” from school officials. In its release, the SEC said the decision comes with advice from the conference’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force, which is a group of sports medicine, infectious disease and public health workers from within the SEC.

“Thanks to the blueprint established by our Task Force and the dedicated efforts of our universities and their athletics programs, we will be able to provide our student-athletes with far better health and wellness education, medical and psychological care and supervision than they would otherwise receive on their own while off campus or training at public facilities as states continue to reopen,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement.

The conference advised schools to follow additional recommendations in addition to facility cleaning and social distancing.

  • Enhanced education of all team members on health and wellness practices, including but not limited to preventing the spread of COVID-19.
  • A three-stage screening process that involves screening before student-athletes arrive on campus, within 72 hours of entering athletics facilities and on a daily basis upon resumption of athletics activities.
  • Testing of symptomatic team members (including all student-athletes, coaches, team support and other appropriate individuals).
  • Immediate isolation of team members who are under investigation or 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.

“The safe and healthy return of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and our greater university communities have been and will continue to serve as our guiding principle as we navigate this complex and constantly-evolving situation,” Sankey said.

South Carolina announced Friday that all student-athletes would receive COVID-19 tests, as well as antibody tests, when they arrive on campus. Missouri plans to test some players that come from areas with more cases.

“Based on the information and science Mizzou has received from its medical professionals, we are comfortable with the safeguards put in place relative to testing and anticipate testing some student-athletes that return from ‘hot spots,’” Joos said.

When Sterk addressed reporters on May 14, he discussed the possibility of student-athletes not wanting to return to campus in June.

{p class=”p1”}”I think the coaches will be working with those student-athletes to make sure that them and their parents feel comfortable.” Sterk said. “And if they don’t, I think all of our coaches would respect that.”

Organized practices and required athletic activities are still suspended, and in-person camps and coaches clinics remain cancelled until July 31.

This article originally ran on columbiamissourian.com.

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