SAN ANTONIO — UTSA football players inched closer Thursday to voluntary workouts on campus, starting the process of getting cleared to use the university's athletic facilities.
UTSA has implemented a phased plan that has been been in the works since mid-March, when college campuses across the country were shut down after the outbreak of the coronavirus.
“We have worked very closely with campus leadership, medical experts, state and local government officials, Conference USA and the NCAA to develop a plan for a safe return of our student-athletes to campus,” UTSA Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Lisa Campos said in a news release.
“I’d like to thank Dan Bellamy, our sports medicine staff and campus partners for putting together this phased approach. We will implement this plan with the health and well-being of our community and student-athletes as our top priority.”
Bellamy, UTSA's director of sports medicine has been Campos’ point man in helping the Roadrunners prepare for the “new normal” in the wake of the pandemic. Football head trainer Nik Turner also has played a key role in helping put together the new protocol.
The Roadrunners will start summer strength and conditioning workouts June 15, first-year head coach Jeff Traylor said.
"Every player wants to be back," Traylor said. "They are chomping at the bit. They've been more than amazing. Their GPA has been fastastic. They've done everything we've asked them to do.
"I can't wait to get them all on campus, but the most important thing is that we've all got to stay safe, we've all got to stay healthy. We have to practice social distancing. I repeat: We've got to stay healthy."
The UTSA student-athletes will go through a series of steps as part of the plan, beginning with individual prescreening, followed by a seven-day self-isolation and observation period, according to the UTSA release.
After they complete the seven-day self-isolation and observation period, each athlete will undergo a medical examination by a physician. All athletes who clear the medical examination period will be allowed limited and monitored access to the weight room, athletic training rooms and "other defined athletics spaces," according to the release.
Student-athletes then would be able to enter the first of three 14-day phases for voluntary workouts, which will focus on strength & conditioning and physical preparation.
A maximum of 10 student-athletes per group will be allowed and six feet of social distancing and face coverings will be required. Daily symptom checks will be logged and collected by the UTSA Sports Medicine staff.
Traylor said 60 football players went through the first day of the protocol Thursday. Another 60 will start the same process in two weeks.
If there is a suspected or confirmed case during any phase, UTSA Athletics will follow university guidance on closing and disinfecting facilities and collaborate with San Antonio Metro Health and University Health System for contact tracing.
The NCAA shut down all its winter and spring championships on March 12, when it canceled the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. A month later, coaches were allowed to start having virtual meetings with their athletes via Zoom conferences during the ban on campus workouts.
Campos said last month that the NCAA has modeled its protocols for reopening athletic facilities after the “Opening Up America Again” document, a set of guidelines formulated by the White House.
“It talks about the phasing of how to open up America, so a lot of data, a lot of documents have been informing us on how we will start introducing student-athletes back to campus,” she said. “Things I would never have thought I would be talking about, we’re talking about."
Campos went into detail about the changes.
“From how you enter a building to how you exit a building, how to block off water fountains so you’re not using community water fountains, to the determination about how locker rooms would be used to the cleaning supplies we’re going to have to use," she said. “We’ve been looking at a lot of detail to put our protocols and our practices into place for when we’re ready to bring student-athletes back on campus,” Campos said. “The most important thing is our community well-being and the well-being and safety of our student-athletes."
UTSA kicks off its 10th season against defending national champion on Sept. 5 in Baton Rouge, La., and plays Grambling in its home opener Sept. 19 at the Alamodome.
UTSA president Taylor Eighmy announced May 11 that the university will reopen for the fall semester, but no date has been set for the start of classes.