Two days after the NCAA cleared the way for individual conferences to allow student-athletes back on campus to resume voluntary workouts, the Big 12 announced on Friday that the Texas Longhorns and other conference schools can allow student-athletes to return on June 15.
The decision only applies to football players immediately, who will be able to access workout facilities and support personnel for voluntary workouts. Volleyball, soccer, and cross-country athletes can return on July 1, with all other student-athletes, most notably football, baseball, and softball, can begin voluntary workouts on July 15.
“This phased approach is intended to permit gradual adoption of best practices for mitigation of COVID-19 as well as ensuring a safe environment and appropriately prepared facilities,” the Big 12 said in a statement. “Until these dates, the conference’s activities policy that was scheduled to sunset May 31 remains in effect for all Big 12 student-athletes.”
On Friday, Longhorns athletics director Chris Del Conte released a statement about the news from the conference.
“We remain optimistic and are continuing to plan for football this season, and this is another positive step towards preparing for that,” Del Conte said. “We were able to get some of our football coaches and staff in the offices this week, and all went well with the health and safety measures we put into place for that. We’ve also been working on plans, procedures and health and safety measures in order to get student-athletes on campus. Given the approval today by the Big 12 and our campus that we can bring football student-athletes back for voluntary workouts with our strength & conditioning staff on June 15, the wheels are now fully in motion to begin preparations for that.”
Texas head coach Tom Herman estimates that half of the football players are currently in Austin and that access to Longhorns weight facilities is safer than going to other gyms in the state that reopened several days ago.
“I feel like if our guys are here in the state of Texas and they’re tired of lifting the Home Depot buckets filled with concrete and working out with resistance bands, they’re going to naturally find a weight room to go to, and why not let it be ours?
“We’ve got probably a much better plan, I would think, to sanitize things,” Herman told Football Scoop.
In recent weeks, the school has started developing protocols for the return of student-athletes, with the Longhorns coaching staff’s return to campus on Monday serving as something of a pilot program.
“We’ve already planned, June 1, if they allow us to do it, we’ll split the weight room in half, kind of have a Weight Room A, Weight Room B,” Herman said. “When guys are working out in Weight Room A we can sanitize Weight Room B and vice versa. We’ll have 8-10 lift groups of eight kids or more. That just makes sense to me, right? They’re going to find a weight room to work out in if they’re in a state that public weight room and workout facilities are opening, so why not let it be ours, under our supervision with our resources dedicated to the sanitization of said equipment and space.”