USC football players can begin returning to campus as the Trojans announced a three-phase plan.
On Tuesday evening, USC athletics announced a plan for the return of student-athletes from six sports, including USC football.
That means, for the first time since the beginning of March when the coronavirus pandemic forced a shutdown of Spring Camp and the NCAA tournament, Trojan players will be able to take to the practice field and athletics facilities.
“We approached this process with extreme patience, prudence, and the utmost regard for the health and safety of our student-athletes, taking time to learn from the experiences of our peers to refine our plans and processes,” athletic director Mike Bohn said in a statement. “We worked diligently to develop a comprehensive plan that enables our student-athletes to voluntarily return to USC to participate in workouts should they choose to do so.
“After a devastating few months, we are thrilled for them that they will be able to come back to campus to do what they love and continue their preparation for their upcoming seasons.”
USC football’s plan for a return to campus has three phases
Per the plan, players from the local LA area (within an hour’s commute from campus) will be allowed to come back to use USC’s athletics facilities beginning on Wednesday.
Players within the local limit will have to make that commute daily as on-campus housing facilities will not be opened in Phase One.
Starters like Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Vaughns, Drake Jackson, Greg Johnson and Brett Neilon should be among that group, along with others.
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Phase Two is scheduled to begin on July 6. That’s when non-local players will be allowed to return to campus with on-campus housing opened up for their use.
Depending on where they have been spending their spring and summer, key players like Kedon Slovis, Jay Tufele, Isaiah Pola-Mao, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Talanoa Hufanga, Isaac Taylor-Stuart and more may have to wait for that date.
Phase Three, hopefully beginning on July 13, will involve the arrival of new and incoming student-athletes. Members of USC’s class of 2020 as well as transfers are included in that group.
All the players, whenever they return, will have to go through a “pre-participation process.” That includes a health and safety protocol info session and a learning module for training. They will have to “sign a risk and shared responsibility acknowledgment form.”
As normal, they will also have to pass a physical. Finally, they will undergo COVID-19 testing which will be repeated weekly.
The Trojans expect some players to test positive. In that event, players will be put into quarantine along with anyone they had contact with.
There are several precautions the university plans to take with student-athletes to prevent positive tests where they can.
On campus, masks are mandatory and temperature checkpoints will be set up.
Locker rooms will be closed. Instead, players will arrive in their workout gear and be given a personal water bottle and towel. When they leave, they will turn in those items, receive a new set of clean workout clothes for the next voluntary workout scheduled and pick up a meal to take with them. The next time they return, they will start the day by turning in their dirty workout clothes which were worn home.
The weight room will have a limit on players, coaches and trainers in two divided areas. All equipment will be sanitized after each use.
USC is also making off-campus behavior “a major point of emphasis.” Guidelines include physical distancing and wearing a face covering when not alone, avoiding group gathers, limiting interactions without people outside of USC and more.