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Parsing through the NCAA’s recommendations for Return to Play

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Mizzou News for Friday, July 17

Who’s ready for reading time?!?

The NCAA has released their next phase of “Return to Sport” guidelines and there’s a lot to go through. I have some thoughts, so let’s get started.

When the NCAA decided to cancel its spring championships, it was because they had no plan in place to conduct them safely. Now that they have a better idea, albeit slightly, of what’s going on, they’ve come up with some ways to still conduct college athletics in a way that will (hopefully) not lead to more issues. And in working with the Power 5 conferences to put this together, the hope is that this will become a mandatory minimum standard for college athletics, especially in high-contact sports like football.

Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic dug into the announcement, and went through some of the details:

Among the most important details of the document are protocols for how long asymptomatic college football players who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate in-season (10 days), weekly testing in-season within 72 hours of competition, a universal masking policy and the criteria that would need to be met for a team to suspend or discontinue its season.

Let’s break this down a bit, shall we?

  • Players who test positive will have to isolate for 10 days and until they’ve gone at least three days without symptoms. Those who have come in contact with the player will need to self-quarantine for 14 days. It must be 14 days if you’ve come into “high-risk contact” with the person, regardless of if they’ve tested negative. No discussion on this. So could that take out an entire position group for 2 weeks if someone — say Nick Bolton (please, god, no) — tests positive amongst the lineman? The whole team?

To keep an entire team from having to quarantine, the NCAA, Auerbach wrote, is encouraging that practices take place in “functional units” (essentially smaller groups of players) to limit cross-exposure. If a player in that unit tests positive, the thought is it’s easier to manage the contact tracing than if they are practicing altogether, but I think that’s easier to say than actually do.

COVID aside— if not everyone is practicing together, how well can a team actually function? When you’ve got a new coaching staff, like Missouri does, and a whole bunch of Baby Tigers, as Nate likes to call them, you need time to practice together. How can you put it all together and see how it works if you are just in “functional groups?” Is this all just a pipe dream, y’all? Because how on Earth are you going to play this sport without contact among pretty much everyone?

  • Players will be tested within 72 hours of competition. What if there’s a testing back up? Are college athletes more important than the general public when it comes to faster results reporting? What if some schools don’t have an “in” with their university health centers that can get them the results back quickly? What happens if you take a test before you leave on a road trip and you don’t have the results back? What if you are at the opponent’s facility when you find out a cruel amount of players have tested positive? Do you forfeit?
  • A universal masking policy. As for testing of staff and coaches, Ross Dellenger pointed out in his piece for Sports Illustrated that they are not required to be tested in the same way as athletes, but will be required to wear masks on the sidelines if they are not tested when their players are. Players will likely need to wear them when in strength workouts and such if social distancing is not possible, and I’ve gotta tell you, in case you haven’t tried it, completing strenuous work while wearing a mask is not ideal.
  • What has to happen to constitute discontinuing a season? Well, here are few examples from the release that are of particular concern to ADs, as Dellenger noted in Thursday’s piece and was mentioned last week in SI.
  1. Campuswide or local community test rates that are considered unsafe by local public health officials.
  2. Local public health officials state that there is an inability for the hospital infrastructure to accommodate a surge in COVID-related hospitalizations.
  3. Also among the list of their recommendations: Member schools must adhere to public health standards set by their local communities.

In regards to #3... what if you live in a state where leaders just refuse to do what’s necessary and right to contain the virus? Some of the state governments currently shouting that they won’t mandate masks are from states in the almighty Southeastern Conference. So what happens then?

Y’all... I really want to believe that we are going to get it together, but man... I just don’t know... And if this talk wasn’t sobering enough, consider this statement from NCAA President Mark Emmert:

“Today, sadly, the data point in the wrong direction. If there is to be college sports in the fall, we need to get a much better handle on the pandemic.”

Dramatic sigh.

On that note, on to the links and um... Happy Friday!


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  • Well, how bout that?!? Here’s hoping MPJ makes it to the bubble at some point.

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