- Sep 5, 2006
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The Southeastern Conference university presidents will vote on an undetermined date whether players will be able to return to campus on either June 1 or June 15, LSU Executive Deputy
The Southeastern Conference university presidents will vote on an undetermined date whether players will be able to return to campus on either June 1 or June 15, LSU Executive Deputy Athletic Director Verge Ausberry told the Louisiana Economic Recovery Task Force Thursday.
Ausberry, who also serves as LSU's Executive Director of External Relations, told the task force that the athletic department is aiming to return its players to campus on June 1, something athletic director Scott Woodward had also said in the department's virtual Coaches Caravan Wednesday night.
"The presidents are going to take a vote in the SEC," Ausberry told the task force, a unit of private sector business leaders who advise lawmakers on the economy's recovery amid the spread of coronavirus. "Do we come back? Do we bring the students back on June 1 or June 15?"
Ausberry told the task force the vote would happen on May 22, but, in a phone call later with The Advocate, he clarified he misspoke on the date and said a vote will happen at an undetermined date.
When reached for comment, SEC spokesman Herb Vincent said in a text message: "We are in continuous conversations about athletics activities related to COVID-19 and will make decisions appropriately."
School and league officials across the country are putting together plans on how athletics can slowly return as the nation recovers from the initial blow of the coronavirus pandemic.
LSU players returned home over two months ago, when the SEC first cancelled all athletic activities on March 13. The SEC suspended play through April 15, then, as the spread of the virus worsened, the league suspended all athletic activities through May 31.
Since then, players worked out on their own while taking online classes. The LSU coaching staff installed its offensive and defensive systems in virtual team meetings, and it created a task force to assist players in academics.
LSU's football coaches returned to the facilities last Monday, the first of Woodward's "three-pronged approach" to returning full activities within the athletic department.
The second phase, Woodward said Wednesday, was returning players to campus. He did not mention a potential vote among SEC presidents, but the timeline was the same.
"We are preparing for a June 1 return, even though we don't know that," Woodward said. "The prohibition's in place for the SEC for us not to use facilities until May 31. When that prohibition comes up, which hopefully won't be extended, and, if it is, we'll be read for that too. But I see some time in June our student-athletes getting back to campus and us taking care of them."
June appears to be the target college football leadership is aiming at for an initial return to normal activities. The commissioners of the Football Bowl Subdivisions 10 conferences told Sports Illustrated that teams needed to start training camp at or around July 15 for the season to start on time.
The chain of command for a return to athletics starts with the federal government, and beneath that, states governors are each developing their own re-opening plans that will all operate on their own timelines.
According to the New York Times, 33 states are partially re-opening from their initial stay-at-home orders, 10 states are re-opening soon and seven states remain shut down or heavily restricted.
Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday that he will be loosening his stay-at-home order starting Friday, which will allow a list of businesses including gyms, barber shops, hair salons, casinos, bars with food permits and other businesses, to reopen with 25% capacity.
Louisiana's partial re-opening, Ausberry said, is good enough reason for players to return to campus, where they'd be in a controlled environment instead of being exposed to the public.
"We would rather our football players and student-athletes to all work out here on our campus and we can manage that," Ausberry said. "That’s what we’re trying to do, the big piece of this, to bring everybody back."
Such a diversity of state-level decisions makes a unified approach in college football nearly impossible.
Two days ago, Los Angeles County announced that its stay-at-home orders will be extended for the next three months, which complicates football plans at Southern Cal and UCLA.
Alabama is scheduled to play USC in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 5, and SEC Network host Paul Finebaum said Tuesday that Alabama has been in communication with Texas Christian as a potential replacement.
The California State University system, which has 23 campuses that include Mountain West Conference members Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose State, announced Tuesday that its fall classes will primarily be held online.
Meanwhile, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis both announced this week that any professional team looking for a place to operate could temporarily move to their state.
The governors did not specify whether colleges held the same invitation.
And, if football season does resume in the fall, schools are still figuring out how to manage proper social distancing if the coronavirus is still prevalent in August.
South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said last week that social distancing will be in place at Williams-Brice Stadium and its other athletic facilities, although the school was still running models to find exactly what kind of attendance it could have.
Will there be social distancing at Tiger Stadium?
Ausberry said "it's too early" for LSU to make that call, although the athletic department has started talking about possibilities.
LSU begins its football season on Sept. 5 in Tiger Stadium against UT-San Antonio, and, Ausberry said, "it's not even June yet."
"I think anybody telling you they really know what's going to happen and what they're going to do, they're not telling the truth," he said.