USC student-athletes will begin a phased return to campus for voluntary workouts beginning on June 24.
In partnership with USC’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman and Director of Sports Medicine Dr. John Brodhead, USC developed a comprehensive health and safety plan that is compliant with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and approved by university administration. The plan follows NCAA and Pac-12 Conference recommendations and guidelines.
USC student-athletes contributed to the planning process. A Student-Athlete Voice Survey was conducted in early June under the direction of Faculty Athletic Representative Dr. Alan Green to assess the comfortability and desire of student-athletes to return to campus for voluntary workouts. A Student-Athlete Questions and Concerns Virtual Hotline was established to create a platform for student-athletes to provide their feedback. Individual meetings were held with several student-athlete leaders, including multiple visits hosted by President Carol L. Folt. For the football team specifically, Clay Helton led both an information session and a questions and concerns discussion. He also hosted an informational webinar for the parents of football student-athletes.
Student-athletes in the following sports will be included in the initial phases of the return to campus for voluntary workouts: football, women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, men’s water polo, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball. As the workouts are voluntary, Director of Athletics Mike Bohn informed all student-athletes that if they decide not to return for workouts they will not face reductions in financial aid.
Return to campus dates for student-athletes in the remaining sports have yet to be determined.
Phase one begins on June 24 and will be limited to returning local (currently within approximately an hour commute of USC) student-athletes in those six sports who will begin the pre-participation process. No on-campus housing will be available to these student-athletes during phase one.
Only upon the successful completion of phase one, returning student-athletes in those six sports who are not local will be permitted to start the pre-participation process. Phase two student-athletes will have the opportunity to reside in USC’s on-campus housing facilities. The target goal for phase two to begin is July 6.
Only upon the successful completion of phase two, new and incoming student-athletes in those six sports will be permitted to start the pre-participation process. Phase three student-athletes will also have the opportunity to reside in USC’s on-campus housing facilities. The target goal for phase three to begin is July 13.
All student-athletes will be required to complete a pre-participation checklist. USC’s athletic medicine staff will make the final determination on a student-athlete’s clearance to participate in voluntary workouts.
As part of the pre-participation process, all student-athletes must participate in a COVID-19 health and safety protocol information session, complete the university’s TrojanLearn training module, sign a risk and shared responsibility acknowledgement form, pass their annual pre-participation physical, and undergo COVID-19 testing.
Following their initial COVID-19 test, student-athletes will be tested weekly.
“We approached this process with extreme patience, prudence, and the utmost regard for the health and safety of our student-athletes, taking time to learn from the experiences of our peers to refine our plans and processes. We worked diligently to develop a comprehensive plan that enables our student-athletes to voluntarily return to USC to participate in workouts should they choose to do so,” said USC athletic director Mike Bohn. “After a devastating few months, we are thrilled for them that they will be able to come back to campus to do what they love and continue their preparation for their upcoming seasons. With this return, we will continue to follow and adapt to all federal, state, county and university regulations, as well as recommendations from the NCAA, Pac-12 and USC Athletics’ medical director.
“We understand that for various reasons some student-athletes may choose not to participate in voluntary workouts. We are fully supportive of the choices made by our student-athletes and their families.”
In addition to student-athletes, only essential staff (strength coaches, athletic trainers, equipment managers, facilities/operations staff) will be allowed access to facilities during voluntary workouts. Those essential staff members will also undergo COVID-19 testing.
Prior to departing for an athletic facility, individuals must pass a daily symptom questionnaire. Upon arrival at the facility, they will have their temperature checked at a designated checkpoint based on their scheduled appointment time. Individuals will be required to wear face coverings, practice physical distancing, sanitize their hands regularly, wear a daily wristband indicating their approved entry and remain in their assigned areas. There will be no access to the locker rooms, showers or players’ lounges, or to off limit floors in the McKay Center, Galen Center and Heritage Hall.
Upon their arrival to the facility, student-athletes will place any mode of transportation (scooter, skateboard, bike) in a designated area, toss their laundry from the previous day in a laundry bin, place their personal belongings in an individually assigned basket and retrieve their personal water bottle and towel for that day.
Upon exiting the facility, student-athletes will sanitize their hands and equipment, drop off their personal baskets, towels and water bottles, retrieve a clean laundry loop for their next voluntary workout, remove their daily wristband and pick up their grab-and-go meals and nutritional supplements.
The McKay Center weight room will be divided into two areas, with a limit of eight players in any area at one time (plus a strength coach and an athletic trainer). Equipment will not be shared and will be cleaned and sanitized after each group. The athletic training room will be accessible for rehab by appointment only. Field workouts for football players will be allowed on Howard Jones and Brian Kennedy Fields, with proper distancing. All meetings with coaches will be virtual through the end of June.
All COVID-19 testing will be done in partnership with USC Student Health. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will receive medical treatment and isolate consistent with L.A. Department of Public Health guidelines. Quarantine housing will be provided through USC Student Health. They cannot return to any athletic facilities until medically cleared. USC will conduct contact tracing and those who have come in contact with positive individuals will be quarantined.
“The reality is that we expect to have positive tests and outbreaks in our university community, including in Athletics,” said Dr. Van Orman. “We have been very thorough in planning for such occurrences and to prevent the spread of the virus. Our medical and planning team has done an outstanding job in preparing protocols and procedures for a variety of scenarios related to COVID-19. We are committed to protecting the health and safety of our USC community.”
Student-athlete behavior off campus will be a major point of emphasis and clear expectations will be established. Athletics administrators and head coaches will work collaboratively to hold student-athletes, staff and other coaches accountable to the guidelines. Outside of athletics facilities, student-athletes will be expected to practice physical distancing at all times, wear a face covering at all times (unless alone in a private space), avoid group gatherings both on and off campus, limit interactions with individuals outside of USC, practice clean hygiene, rigorously clean frequently touched surfaces, complete their wellness checks honestly and immediately report any symptoms.
“The decision to return to campus for voluntary workouts is a very personal one,” said Bohn. “Those returning have a responsibility to protect our community at all times, not only when they are working out. We expect them to adhere to all standards and restrictions in our restart plan so that their fellow student-athletes and our entire community remains safe and healthy.”
Because the pandemic remains a rapidly evolving situation, these guidelines are subject to change.
The NCAA announced that mandatory organized team activities can begin July 13 for football and July 20 for men’s and women’s basketball.