Syracuse, NY - After almost three months off of campus and the cancellation of the spring sports season, Syracuse University is welcoming back student-athletes to campus.
Tomorrow, June 8, athletes can return who are beginning voluntary workouts to prepare for the fall season.
Members of the football team will be some of the first to return for voluntary training sessions, as their official training camp begins on August 5th.
Last month, the NCAA issued a detailed return to play action plan, giving each institution the liberty to enact their own policies in regards to safe-workout guidelines.
Syracuse's athletic department states that it will implement its own operational plan in alignment with guidance from public health and government officials to safely prepare athletes for the fall season and beyond.
Included in this plan is immediate testing of all student-athletes and isolation upon their return to campus until negative results are met. The isolation period could last as long as 2 weeks. Then a phased-in concept where student will be housed with a certain amount of other athletes and assigned staff.
(Courtesy: Syracuse Athletics)
"The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes, our staff and the campus and Central New York communities is my top priority. Period. We will be rigorous in the testing and monitoring of our student-athletes, and my staff and I will be working diligently to educate our team on prevention and detection," said head football coach Dino Babers. "We all have a part to play in keeping our community safe and that's a responsibility I take seriously. My players know what is expected of them, and I will hold them accountable."
The Department of Athletics will institute a phased-in concept of athletic "pods" in which student-athletes are matched up in small pods at first — much like families — based initially on housing assignments. In the first phase, student-athletes are assigned to pods with a maximum of 10 players when they arrive on campus. They are allowed contact only with members of their pod, including staff assigned to the pod. In the second and third phases of the plan, which are likely to be implemented in July, the small-group pods will grow in size, first to include up to 30 student-athletes and then, eventually, entire units and ultimately the full team.
Also key to the success of the operational plan is the appointment of an infection control officer (ICO), who will work closely with the University's Infection Response Team (IRT). Herman Frazier, senior deputy director of athletics, will serve as ICO, the first point of contact for any Department of Athletics staff member or student-athlete who may suspect they've been exposed to COVID-19 or who develops any symptoms suggestive of infection. Frazier will also ensure that all screening protocols are followed, including daily temperature checks and blood oxygen level testing. In his capacity as ICO, he will also oversee the cleaning and disinfection program for all athletic training facilities.
"There is a strict screening protocol in place to protect our teams and all those who work with them," said Frazier. "Employees will be encouraged to take their temperature routinely at home prior to arrival at the training facility. Daily screening for all employees reporting to work — as well as visitors, contractors and service providers who enter the athletic facilities — will include questions related to close contacts and early symptoms of infection."
According to the department's operational plan, and in alliance with the University's public health framework, social distancing measures will be enforced and protective equipment, including face masks, will be used in all athletic facilities. Masks may not be required by student-athletes during training or working out, but they are expected to maintain social distancing of at least six feet while in a facility. All shared equipment will be cleaned and sanitized prior to and after each use by each student-athlete.
The athletic training room (ATR) will be open to student-athletes only for new injury evaluation, rehab and taping. In most cases, appointments will be required in order to uphold social distancing guidelines. Non-essential medical care at the sports medicine facilities — such as routine physical exams, routine strength and conditioning, and football skill development work — will not be offered during the first phase of reopening.