USC Players in Six Sports Set to Return Wednesday for Voluntary Workouts

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - USC football players and athletes in five other sports will begin what the university described as a “phased return to campus'' today for voluntary workouts.

Besides football, the other teams included in the initial phases of the return to campus for voluntary workouts are men's and women's basketball, women's soccer, women's volleyball and men's water polo.

The first phase will be limited to returning athletes who are approximately an hour's commute from USC, the university announced Tuesday. No on-campus housing will be available to these student-athletes during phase one.

Returning athletes in six sports who are not local will not be permitted to start the pre-participation process until the successful completion of phase one.

Phase two athletes will have the opportunity to reside in USC's on-campus housing facilities. The target goal for phase two is to begin is July 6.

New and incoming athletes in those six sports will be permitted to start the pre-participation process only upon the successful completion of phase two.

Phase three 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 athletes will be required to complete a pre-participation checklist. USC's athletic medicine staff will make the final determination on an athlete's clearance to participate in voluntary workouts.

The NCAA announced that mandatory organized team activities can begin July 13 for football and July 20 for men's and women's basketball.

As part of the pre-participation process, all 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,'' athletic director Mike Bohn said.

“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. After a devastating few months, we are thrilled for them that they will be able to come to back to campus to do what they love and continue their preparation for their upcoming seasons.''

As the workouts are voluntary, Bohn informed all members of those teams that if they decide not to return for workouts they will not face reductions in financial aid.

“We understand that for various reasons some student-athletes may choose not to participate in voluntary workouts,'' Bohn said. “We are fully supportive of the choices made by our student-athletes and their families.''

In addition to the players, 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, student-athletes will place any mode of transportation -- scooter, skateboard or bicycle -- 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, 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.

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.

Individuals who test positive for the coronavirus will receive medical treatment and isolate consistent with Los Angeles County 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. Sarah Van Orman, USC's chief medical officer.

“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.''

Outside of athletics facilities, 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,'' Bohn said. “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.''

Photos: Getty Images

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