Sports Pulse: College football offseason programs are set to come back on time but at what risk? USA TODAY
Penn State is taking its first steps in the hopes of bringing back college football.
University officials have announced a “phased approach to return to campus” that begins Monday for 75 of its football players and an undisclosed segment of its student body.
Returning student-athletes who have cleared medical testing and quarantine procedures will be allowed to begin workouts a week later.
Penn State will return the remainder of its football players and its other sports teams in phases. Those return dates will be announced later, according to a university release.
It is unclear which football players will report first.
Student athletes and staff will follow safety protocols, include wearing of masks, daily health screenings and “carefully guided access to buildings,” according to university officials. All safety and sanitation protocols stem from CDC and local government guidelines, as well as the NCAA Sport Science Institute and the Big Ten Conference’s task force for Emerging Infectious Disease.
“I’m so eager … When they do announce whenever we can go back, I might run, I might not even drive back,” Nittany Lion defensive tackle P.J. Mustipher said earlier this week. “That’s how happy I am to be back with my guys.”
Meanwhile, Penn State also will welcome back other students who require “access to specialized facilities, in-person mentoring or early arrival for successful transition to the fall semester.”
This comes as colleges can begin holding in-person classes again this week, per the announcement from Gov. Tom Wolf and the state’s department of education. All of Penn State’s classes have been held virtually since the coronavirus shut down schools and businesses in mid-March.
Returning athletes who are medically cleared will begin voluntary, on-campus workouts on June 15 — workouts limited to groups of 20 who will be supervised by Penn State’s performance enhancement and sports medicine staffs.
New requirements for athletes, coaches and staff included undergoing a daily health screening questionnaire and temperature check, the use of personal protective equipment and adherence to social distancing guidelines for meetings and workouts.
All athletic facilities will undergo regular “enhanced cleaning” and will feature limited and monitored access.
“We are looking forward to the return of our student-athletes in the coming weeks and hope this is the first steps to a full return for the fall,” Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said in a prepared statement.
“We are very confident in our plan and will continue to keep the health, safety and well-being of our students, coaches, staff and community as our top priority.”
Several schools across the country previously announced return dates this week for their athletes, including Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin in the Big Ten. Others already have returned.
Alabama possibly has five players who have tested positive for COVID-19 after they began on-campus workouts this week, according to a report.
These June workouts are the first in a four-step plan for bringing back college football, according to the DI Football Oversight Committee. The end goal is a four-week training camp in August and an on-time start to the season on Labor Day weekend.
Penn State is set to open its season in Beaver Stadium on Sept. 5 against Kent State.