On Friday afternoon, shortly after UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green announced changes to the fall semester’s academic calendar, Nebraska athletics announced details for its plan to return student-athletes to campus beginning on June 1.
Members of the football, volleyball, soccer, women’s basketball and men’s basketball teams will be the first to return for voluntary workouts. Additional Husker teams will prepare to begin workouts in a phased approach in the coming weeks.
Nebraska football will begin voluntary workouts in groups no larger than 10 on June 1. Nebraska volleyball will begin voluntary workouts on June 8. A return to activities for men’s basketball isn’t quite as clear yet, those plans were described as “fluid.”
The return protocol Nebraska developed in partnership with the University of Nebraska Medical Center includes several steps that must be met prior to being allowed to resume voluntary workouts. It also outlines testing measures and safety procedures.
Athletic Director Bill Moos said on the Husker Sports Nightly radio show earlier this week that 150-175 student-athletes were already on campus. The first step in the plan for those who aren’t is the gathering of pre-travel information and education, followed by guidelines for traveling back to Lincoln.
Student-athletes will be asked to complete a questionnaire, and then upon arrival back in Lincoln, they’ll quarantine for a minimum of 48 hours. Student-athletes living by themselves off campus may quarantine at their home, but any who live on campus will quarantine at The Village, a dorm on campus for upperclassmen and graduate students.
Following the completion of the quarantine period, the student-athlete will have to take COVID-19 and that test has to return a confirmed negative result before being allowed access to any athletic department facilities.
If the test returns positive, the student-athlete will then have to self-isolate following positive test guidelines. Any student-athlete who test positive will be required to return two consecutive negative tests before being allowed inside any athletic department facility.
Workouts will be conducted in small groups and must be in accordance with all local and state guidelines.
Student-athletes will have daily symptom checks and instant-read temperature checks prior to entering any facility.
Once cleared to enter the facility, student-athletes will be required to wear a daily wrist band to exhibit medical clearance.
Student-athlete access in the athletic facilities will be limited only to areas that are related to participating in voluntary workouts. There will not be any access to locker rooms.
Protocols are also in place for handwashing, distancing during workouts, disinfecting equipment between lifts and workouts, and laundry services.
“The plan we have developed is done with the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and community as our top priority,” Moos said in the release. “We have strict protocol that will involve quarantines, testing and detailed cleaning and safety measures. The guidelines we have in place will be strictly followed as our student-athletes return to prepare for their upcoming seasons.”
A committee that included staff members from administration and football, as well as the necessary health and safety departments within the athletic department developed the protocols. The plan was coordinated in part with the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Dr. Chris Kratochvil, the chair of the Big Ten’s recently created Task Force for Emerging Infectious Disease.
Moos said earlier this week the Huskers’ protocol is being used by other member institutions throughout the Big Ten.
Nebraska is one of only a handful of programs to return student-athletes as early as June 1. The Huskers have been aggressive in their attempts to restart things. Head coach Scott Frost said in a Sports Nightly appearance earlier this month that local Lincoln businesses were depending on a football season. Moos said this week NU would consider allowing as many fans into its stands this season as allowed by local state authorities.
Louisville, Memphis, Houston and Wyoming are the other currently known Division I programs who have announced they will allow student-athletes back to campus on the first of the month, the earliest allowed by the NCAA.
Ohio State is targeting June 8 for a return, the same date the SEC has announced it will allow its institutions to start bringing student-athletes back. Big 12 and Pac-12 schools are targeting June 15 at the earliest. Oklahoma announced a plan this week to reintegrate student-athletes on campus July 1.
“Every day early that we bring them in is a day we could have gotten better,” OU coach Lincoln Riley told reporters during a Zoom call in mid-May. “It’s a day we could have learned more about the virus. It’s a day PPE maybe gets better. It’s a day closer to a vaccine. It’s a day that our testing equipment and testing capabilities get better. And it’s just not worth it. So we’ve got to be patient. We get one shot at this and we’ve got to do it right.”