Nearly 11 weeks after all University of Louisville athletics competition was suspended on March 17 due to health concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic, some Cardinal student-athletes will be returning to campus under a phased plan on May 27, 12 days ahead of any volunteer physical activity.
UofL Athletics administrators and health officials have been planning a phased return to campus for weeks, with goals to:
• Provide a phased progression into athletic activity to promote mental and physical well-being;
• Provide a phased approach of opening and use of athletic facilities;
• Provide a safe environment that allows student athletes to transition into supervised activity to improve their strength and conditioning;
• Implement and adhere to operational guidelines to minimize the risk of virus transmission among student-athletes and staff; and
• Create an environment that generates a change in personal hygiene practices so that best practices are being used in individual life.
“We have worked very closely with our campus leadership, medical professionals and coaching staffs to prepare a comprehensive plan for a safe return to campus for our student-athletes to participate in voluntary activities,” said UofL Vice-President/Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “The multi-phased plan avails a limited number of student-athletes to return at various dates and get back to routines they are accustomed to at this time of year.”
Under the first phase, a limited group of student-athletes totaling about 30 in football, plus 15 in men’s and women’s basketball, would arrive on campus on May 27, with education on protocols to be employed prior to their arrival. The group would begin testing and physical examinations on June 3 and be ready to participate in voluntary physical training, not directed by coaching staffs, on June 8. Three UofL facilities — the Schnellenberger Football Complex, Trager Center, and Planet Fitness Kueber Center — would be open with limited occupancy during the first phase.
The plan accounts for incorporating additional student-athletes and facilities in this and subsequent phases, subject to the direction the NCAA will provide later this week. UofL is prepared to include up to 15 swimming and diving student-athletes in the first phase and open the Ralph Wright Natatorium with limited occupancy should that sport be included among those permitted for voluntary workouts by the NCAA.
Student-athletes will be returning to campus voluntarily during the early phases to utilize the opportunity to work with the Cardinals’ athletic training staff and access UofL facilities for workouts. It is not required participation.
An abundance of operational measures will be in place to minimize the risk and potential spread of the virus, including such items as wearing masks, use of designated entrances and exits, passing electronic daily symptom checks, physical distancing, using gloves and hand sanitizers when necessary, checking individual temperatures and extensive disinfecting of used areas. Protocols will be in place should there be a positive test for the virus among staff or student-athletes. Any portion of the plans are subject to change to assure health and safety of all involved.
If all proceeds well with Phase 1 and dependent upon NCAA rules, in the next phase an additional 30 football and 60 Olympic sport student-athletes would arrive on campus on June 10. The group would experience similar preparations before engaging in voluntary physical activity by June 22 within their respective venues. During this stage, additional athletics facilities would be opened with limited occupancy. For instance, workouts within the Marshall Center would be in small groups in staggered sessions throughout the day, with disinfecting occurring after each session.
In the third phase of the plan, the remaining football student athletes would be back to campus on July 6, preparing to begin voluntary physical activity on July 18. Up to 60 additional student-athletes could be included as well in this phase should it be permitted by the NCAA with access to work out in the Marshall Center as appropriate.
By the fourth phase, in late July and August, all student-athletes would return to activities with full practices, scrimmages and competitions as allowed by NCAA or ACC guidelines. All athletic facilities would be open by this time.
While there may be elements of the plan that are adjusted as it is executed, UofL leadership has a blueprint in place to provide its student-athletes a safe environment to return to campus and transition into supervised activity while continuing to address their academic needs.