The NCAA announced last week that schools can open their facilities to players for voluntary workouts beginning on June 1, which has spawned a flurry of announcements from schools and conferences that are chomping at the bit to get back. The SEC announced that its schools can open their doors on June 8, which is also the date that Clemson intends to begin its offseason workouts. Oklahoma, on the other hand, is choosing to wait a little bit longer to get things cranked up. The school announced on Tuesday that its voluntary football workouts are available to begin on July 1.
“As we have planned for the re-opening of our facilities, the health of our student-athletes and staff has been our top priority,” athletic director Joe Castiglione said. “It is the principal that has guided every step of our meticulous process. At OU, we are fortunate to have one of the most respected teams of doctors and athletic trainers in the country. We have looked to them for direction in our preparation and protocols. They will continue to play an important role in the weeks leading up to our opening and beyond. We believe in our approach and are convinced that it best positions our student-athletes and staff for long-term success. It is with great excitement that we look forward to their return in preparation for the upcoming sports seasons.”
Football players will be screened by the Oklahoma medical staff before participating in workouts. They will only be allowed to work out in groups of 10 or fewer participants and will be screened in a central area upon arriving to the building. If a player tests positive for COVID-19, he will be quarantined in a housing facility specifically designed to shelter and quarantine.
Oklahoma’s plan, which was developed by the athletic department and the University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center, includes several safety measures in order to keep student-athletes and staff safe. Most staff members will continue to work from home with only essential personnel working on-site. All staff members will wear masks and practice social-distancing guidelines. Measures have been enacted for common touch points including elevators, staircases, restrooms, meeting rooms, offices and workout facilities.
“As I have stated before, we are going to approach this return with extreme care,” said coach Lincoln Riley. “We have received tremendous guidance from highly respected medical professionals, and we will follow their recommendations. We understand that the well-being of our student-athletes is at the top of our responsibilities. That’s why we will be diligent in how we manage everything from the way we relate to each other to the cleaning of our facilities and beyond. Our medical personnel have told us that the safest thing we can do is keep our players off campus for as long as possible. We chose the latest point that we could bring them back and still have enough time to prepare.”
Riley has been one of college football’s most outspoken coaches regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He told reporters on May 15 that the delicate situation regarding the health and safety of players should mandate caution when determining their return.
“In my opinion, we need to bring them in as late as we possibly can before we play a season,” Riley said. “Every day early that we bring them in is a day we could have gotten better. It’s a day we could’ve 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 gotta be patient. We get one shot at this, and we’ve gotta do it right.”
In April, Riley showed off an Oklahoma-themed mask on Twitter, which could serve as a preview of what other members of the Sooners will be wearing come July 1.