The college football season took a step closer to reality Wednesday when the NCAA moved to allow players to resume athletic activities on June 1.
Let’s break down what the bureaucratic move does (and doesn’t) mean for teams gearing up for a Week 1 kickoff on Sept. 5.
What happened, exactly?
The NCAA’s Division I Council voted to allow football and basketball players to participate in voluntary athletic activities on campus from June 1-30. A ban on those activities had been in place for weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why is this important?
Two reasons: On a practical level, athletes haven’t been able to train properly for the upcoming season since the pandemic shuttered campus facilities and gyms. They need this time to get their bodies conditioned and back into football shape, otherwise their health could be at risk when formal practices and workouts begin later this summer. Most coaches want about six weeks of those drills before kickoff.
On a larger level, it’s the first step among many that have to happen before Week 1. This restriction had to be lifted so others can follow. Voluntary workouts come before mandatory practices, which come before actual games. It’s only one step of many along the way, but the first step is an important one.
What will be allowed?
Think things like offseason conditioning and weightlifting, not organized practices. Head coaches typically aren’t allowed to watch quarterbacks throw and receivers run routes. But strength coaches usually are around to monitor the workouts.
Does this mean everyone will be back on June 1?
Not necessarily. Conferences can keep or add their own restrictions on athletic activities. The SEC is expected to vote Friday on whether to allow its players to resume workouts on June 1, or to wait until another date (probably June 15).
The schools themselves must also decide when to lift any of its restrictions, in conjunction with guidance from local and state governments (which are stricter in some parts of the country than others). Florida State reportedly has athletes on campus already to prepare for a potential return to workouts on June 1. Ohio State announced Wednesday that its players will be back on campus June 8.
Does this mean the season will start on time? Or that the season will happen at all?
We don’t know. But Wednesday’s decision was, if nothing else, a step in the right direction.
Conferences and schools will figure out when workouts can resume. The AAC, ACC and SEC all have medical groups to advise the leagues on returning to play, among other issues.
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Beyond that, expect more speculation and discussion and models about what the season could look like as scientists learn more about the novel coronavirus. Concrete decisions on the season itself probably won’t come until late June or early July.