By Steve Lansdale
IRVING and AUSTIN, Texas — Is it the return of college sports? No.
But the Big 12 took a tentative step in that direction Friday when the conference announced a plan through which student-athletes competing in fall sports can begin returning to their campuses in order to begin voluntary activities related to participation in their specific sports. Campuses across the country have been shut down for a couple of months in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Beginning June 15 football student-athletes will be permitted to access campus athletic facilities and support personnel for voluntary conditioning and training exercises,” the conference said in a statement. “Volleyball, soccer and cross country student-athletes are able to return July 1. All other Big 12 student-athletes may return to campus for voluntary sport-related activities July 15.”
The conference’s decision to stagger the dates upon which student-athletes in different sports can return to their campuses 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’s statement said. “Until these dates, the conference’s activities policy that was scheduled to sunset May 31 remains in effect for all Big 12 student-athletes.”
Texas vice president and athletics director Chris Del Conte responded to the Big 12’s announcement in a statement released by the UT athletic department.
“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.”