For the first time in exactly three months, the USF football practice facility is about to feature the sights, sounds and sweat of players.
More than 75 Bulls are expected back on campus Wednesday for voluntary workouts following approval of a phased return to action by USF’s board of trustees. Men’s and women’s basketball players are set to return Monday, with athletes in other fall sports slated to return July 6.
A second wave of football players is scheduled to return to campus the second week of July. Student-athletes from all programs are expected back on campus when the fall semester commences in late August.
All returning players and staffers will be tested for COVID-19 before being granted access.
“Director of sports medicine Steve Walz and our infection response team (IRT) have done a great job developing a comprehensive and detailed plan for the safe return of our student-athletes and a limited number of staff,” athletic director Michael Kelly said, “while working in conjunction with the university, state and local authorities and CDC guidelines.”
The Bulls’ return to conditioning comes two days after Florida and UCF began similar voluntary workouts, and nine days after FSU welcomed back football players. UCF announced Tuesday three of its players have tested positive for COVID-19; FSU reported one positive case.
The football players last took the field on March 10, the first spring practice of the Jeff Scott era. Days later, the campus was shut down due to the coronavirus crisis.
The initial phase of the Bulls’ return includes players and 25 percent of staff and employees, with staff including sports-medicine and strength-and-conditioning personnel. Players will be limited to groups of 10, and initially will do weight training under a large tent erected on the south end of the practice fields instead of inside their normal weight room.
They will also receive mandatory COVID-19 safety and hygiene training prior to returning to use facilities that will maintain limited occupancy. All must enter and exit facilities through designated entrances at designated times, undergo daily screening and temperature checks, and wear face masks upon entry, among other stipulations.
NCAA regulations permit only strength-and-conditioning personnel to supervise voluntary on-campus workouts through June. Scott, however, has been holding weekly virtual meetings with his players for two months now.