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Barnhart: Safety Priority as SEC Gives Green Light to Workouts

Mitch Barnhart and Mark Stoops are taking careful steps as schools re-open to allow athletes back on campus for voluntary workouts next month. (UK Athletics Photo)

By KEITH TAYLOR

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Southeastern Conference has given member institutions the green light to allow student-athletes back in campus beginning June 8.


Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said the school will work with local and state officials to make a final determination when student-athletes can return to the school and resume voluntary workouts under “strict supervision of designated university personnel and safety guidelines.”


“We will not compromise the safety and well-being of our student-athletes in this process, taking all possible precautions,” Barnhart said. “Once we take this important step in returning to activity, we will shift our focus to preparing to return to play and bringing the entire UK family — student-athletes, coaches and fans alike — back together this fall in a responsible and safe way.”


The date set by the SEC was recommended by the league’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force on Friday. 


“The safe and healthy return of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and our greater university communities have been and will continue to serve as our guiding principle as we navigate this complex and constantly-evolving situation,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “At this time, we are preparing to begin the fall sports season as currently scheduled, and this limited resumption of voluntary athletic activities on June 8 is an important initial step in that process.”


The return in less than two weeks will end a ban on campus sporting activities and workouts that began on March 12. The league canceled all spring sporting events, including spring football and other activities.


Beginning next month, NCAA regulations permit only strength and conditioning personnel to supervise voluntary on-campus athletics activities in the sports of football and men’s and& women’s basketball. A current waiver that permits eight hours of virtual film review has been extended through June 30 for football and basketball.


Organized practices and other required physical activities remain prohibited in all sports. A previously announced suspension of in-person camps and coaches clinics conducted by SEC institutions remains in effect until July 31.


The SEC’s enhanced safety measures include:


• Enhanced education of all team members on health and wellness best practices, including but not limited to preventing the spread of COVID-19.


• A 3-stage screening process that involves screening before student-athletes arrive on campus, within 72 hours of entering athletics facilities and on a daily basis upon resumption of athletics activities.


• Testing of symptomatic team members (including all student-athletes, coaches, team support and other appropriate individuals).


• Immediate isolation of team members who are under investigation or diagnosed with COVID-19 followed by contact tracing, following CDC and local public health guidelines.


• A transition period that allows student-athletes to gradually adapt to full training and sport activity following a period of inactivity.

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Keith Taylor
Keith Taylor is an award-winning journalist who has covered Kentucky athletics since 1995. He is the sports editor of Kentucky Today and his work appears in 12 daily newspapers as well as various weekly and web sites throughout the state. Reach him at Keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor 21.

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