USC football: Pac-12 lays out plan to return to voluntary in-person athletic workouts

USC football is one step closer to returning (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)
USC football is one step closer to returning (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy) /

USC football is one step closer to returning to practice.

USC football could theoretically get its student-athletes back on campus and participating in voluntary workouts as early as June 15.

That’s because on Tuesday the Pac-12 announced its plan for a return to in-person voluntary workouts beginning in mid-June.

“The Pac-12 is committed to the well-being of our student-athletes, and the decision to allow for voluntary workouts, subject to a determination by each school, is guided by the advice of our medical experts and will be supported by the detailed protocols established by our medical advisory committee in concert with our campus’ own safety guidelines,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement

“As states have either already opened or begin to open up access to parks, gyms and other training facilities, student-athletes should have the option at this time to be in, what for many, will be a much safer environment on campus, where they can have access to the best available health, well-being and training support.”

What does the Pac-12 announcement mean for USC football?

For USC, the equation doesn’t necessarily change. The Trojans still have to wait for the go-ahead from the state of California and the city of Los Angeles to get back on the practice field.

The good news is how the Pac-12’s decision is in line with plans at the state and city level to move towards normal activities.

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When Los Angeles gives the green light for gyms to reopen, USC will be in a position to quickly resume their athletics activities, including football.

Of course, those activities will require some adjusting.

The Pac-12 laid out its policies for how to handle the return of student-athletes:

  • To return to campus, players and other personnel should be symptom-free and have no Covid-19 contact for 14 days prior. Those who return via airplane travel should consider isolation for seven days while high-risk persons should consider delaying their return entirely.
  • To return to athletic facilities, players and personnel should be fever and symptom-free and undergo “pre-participation evaluation.” There needs to be laboratory testing and health education with the setting of cultural expectations, including hygiene. Programs must set up activity and contact tracing. Everyone must wear face coverings at all time
  • Athletic facilities will be expected to require symptom and temperature checks before admittance. They must also have strategies for social distancing and increased cleaning.
  • For weight rooms, small group workouts and a schedule should be utilized to minimize crowding and maintain social distancing. Equipment should be cleaned between each use.
  • When it comes to locker rooms, the Pac-12 recommends encouraging athletes to arrive prepared to workout and to shower at home.
  • Training rooms should limit numbers and consider appointment-based usage.
  • Dining rooms should have only pre-packaged foods and allow no eating in the facility with meals provided on a “To-Go” basis.
  • To return to exercise players will need to undergo daily symptoms and temperature tests. For weight rooms, conditioning workouts and group activities to be considered “lower risk,” there should be small functional units that can keep distance. Players should wear face coverings at all times. Team activities outside the functional unit should be done online
  • If someone is infected, programs should quarantine the individual and monitor for symptom development. When the individual is symptom-free for 72 hours and it has been 10 days since the onset of symptoms, they may return. Someone who is symptom-free and has two negative PCR rests 24 hours apart may also return. Anyone who came into “low risk” contact with an infected individual should be monitored. Anyone who came into “high risk” contact (i.e. participated in face-to-face or contact drills) should be quarantined at home for five days from exposure with testing on Day 3 and Day 5. Alternatively, they could be quarantined for 14 days in the absence of testing. If no symptoms develop while quarantined and testing returns negative results, the individual will be allowed to resume activity.

As June approaches, it’s encouraging to see actualized plans take shape. It’s still a pretty uncertain waiting game, but each step brings us closer to the possibility of football this fall, on-time and under relatively normal circumstances.

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Since USC suspended Spring Camp after just one outing, the Trojans will need all the time they can get to get the team back up to speed.

This year, voluntary player-run practices will be particularly critical before Fall Camp potentially arrives at the start of August. By then, universities around the country will have had the opportunity to figure out exactly how to enact the policies designed to keep athletes and other personnel safe while also getting sports back up and running.

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