While many media outlets continue to work on stories questioning how long the Coronavirus may last and many continue to question whether there will be anything open before the middle of 2021, the NCAA seems to be looking at it in a more positive way. Kind of like the way like Dabo Swinney has. They have a broad, nine step, three phase plan, and they have stated that they have a public plan they want their schools to follow as they move towards an eventual return of athletics.

This broad, nine step, three phase plan that was released Friday, is based on the three phase federal guidelines for easing up on social distancing and other limitations during the coronavirus pandemic. Most significantly, it makes clear that a return of sports must be centered around the return of students on campus. So if Tiger fans want football to happen in Death Valley in the fall you’re going to want all other students to be able to be on campus.

According to the plan,

“Collegiate sports differ from professional sports because all collegiate athletes are first and foremost students. “Thus, resocialization of collegiate sport must be grounded in resocialization of college campuses. As with society at large, such resocialization must be measured, nimble, and based on sound science. In all instances, college athletics must operate with approval of the students’ institutional leadership; and the institution must be operating in accordance with local and state public officials with regard to return to campus, return to practice, and return to competition. In the end, institutional and governmental leadership determine who can participate in; assist with; and watch student-athlete practices and competition.”

None of the three phases can happen without a 14 day downward trend of coronavirus cases and flu like illnesses in a schools surrounding area, and local hospitals cannot be overworked. 

The first phase can happen after schools have their plans to get students back on campus and are appropriately prepared with personal protective equipment for athletic healthcare providers along with being able to quickly and easily secure coronavirus tests and have the ability to assess immunity to COVID-19 at the regional and local level. This first phase includes no gatherings of 10 or more, virtual meetings whenever able, continued physical distancing, and a request that all vulnerable populations continue to shelter in place.

The second, which can not happen until after 14 or more days of the first phase loosens restrictions a little more and allows gatherings of up to 50 people unless precautionary plans of physical distancing and sanitization are in place.

The third, comes after a minimum of two weeks of the second phase and has to be shown that there’s no evidence of a rebound of coronavirus. This will allow schools to open gyms and common areas if appropriate sanitation plans are started and unrestricted staffing can resume.

It was also stated that with coronavirus outbreaks varying in timing and severity from state to state, schools under the NCAA will be starting these phases at different times over the summer and will happen as their states go through the federal phases. Based on the 28 day combined minimum of the first two phases and athletic activity delays in place by different conferences all the way through May, official practices and workouts are not going to be starting anytime in the next few weeks. 

Is this a guarantee that there will be ffootball in Death Valley this fall? No, but it is better news than most fans have heard to this point. Was Dabo Swinney right? Were he and other coaches, that deal with the NCAA everyday told something to give them more confidence about the upcoming season?

No one knows that answer, but most Tiger fans would agree that is the case and they’ll be able to see Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and Justyn Ross scoring TDs, while Bryan Breese, Xavier Thomas, and Nyles Pinkney get after the quarterbacks in Tigertown. All fans can really do at this point is keep their fingers crossed and let’s see if these plans work out.

 

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