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Ole Miss prepares for ‘first wave’ of reopening athletic facilities

The Southeastern Conference provided a much-needed vote last week in terms of keeping hope alive for college football to be played this fall.

The conference’s presidents and chancellors voted to reopen all athletic facilities across their 14 campuses, effective June 8. This will be the first time any facility has been open to student-athletes since the SEC suspended all competitions and activities on March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having a tangible date of when student-athletes can now return to campus, for voluntary workouts only, Ole Miss announced its plans to slowly resume a form of normalcy.

“We are excited about today’s announcement by the SEC and look forward to safely welcoming the first wave of student-athletes back to campus beginning June 8,” said Keith Carter, Ole Miss vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics said in a statement on Friday. “I want to commend Shannon Singletary and the rest of the Ole Miss athletics planning subcommittee, which is comprised of medical professionals and a diverse group of university administrators, for their leadership and diligence in formulating our gating plan, which will work cohesively with the timeline established by the SEC.”

The gating plan will follow all federal, state, local and university guidelines and restrictions. The preparations are being completed to be ready for the first sign of student-life on campus in nearly three months.

Some of the provisions being put in place include:

  • Facility adaptations and operational restrictions
  • Screening process prior to arrival
  • Education and accommodations for employees and student-athletes
  • PPE and cleaning supplies
  • Workouts and training sessions that observe quarantine/isolation protocols
  • Testing program, including emerging antibody testing
  • Contact tracing
  • Hospital capability to treat all patients.

On May 20, the NCAA voted to reopen athletic facilities, effective June 1, to allow voluntary workouts for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball programs only. The SEC elected to give their campuses an extra week to prepare for however many athletes choose to return.

“The subcommittee’s priority is to protect vulnerable employees and students, and under the guidance of the multiple experts, peer reviewed information, the CDC, the (Mississippi State Department of Health) and campus and local authorities, will take a phased approach to reopening our department.”

Any other staff in the Rebels’ athletic department who do not have direct contact with student-athletes will also have strict facility, operational and travel guidelines in place. Any staff that can still effectively work from home will be the last to return to campus, and accommodations will be made for any vulnerable employees.