FAYETTEVILLE – Over a 40-minute press conference Wednesday Arkansas Athletic Hunter Yurachek outlined the plan to return some Razorbacks athletes to campus in Fayetteville June 8 for strength and conditioning training leading into active the fall season sports headlined by football.
The highly contagious coronavirus covid-19 pandemic has cancelled all college sports and closed nearly all college campuses since mid-March.
The NCAA now allows some sports returning to campus for conditioning June 1 but the SEC, of which Arkansas is a part, decreed waiting until June 8.
Razorbacks in fall sports football, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball and the overlapping fall and spring semester sports of men’s and women’s basketball can return voluntarily to campus June 8 and the month’s remainder for weight and conditioning training supervised by the strength and conditioning and training staffs but without the coaches of their sports.
Other than those freshman who graduated high school in December and participated working out in their sports as enrolled UA students since January, freshmen athletes will not be allowed to report June 8 nor in the June 22 wave when the sports conducted during the winter of men’s and women’s indoor track and field, women’s gymnastics and women’s swimming and diving report for strength and conditioning workouts also minus their coaches.
Incoming freshmen for all the sports that started conditioning in June can report June 29, Yurachek said when the spring sports of baseball, women’s softball, men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s tennis can report for conditioning.
Yurachek said he chose not to have first-time freshmen participate early knowing as a parent of athletes, former NFL player Ryan Yurachek has joined Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks football staff as a graduate assistant and Jake Yurachek is a Razorbacks third-year sophomore linebacker, that it’s difficult enough adjusting to college without an introduction under the current circumstances.
Graduate transfers, underclassmen transfers and junior college transfers can report when their teams do, Yurachek said.
Yurachek said the plan to bring the athletes back to train has been made in conjunction with advice and guidelines set by the Arkansas Department of Health, the SEC Medical Task Force and state and federal agencies and the UA’s medical and training staffs.
While noting “no plan can guarantee that anyone affiliated with our program will not contract covid-19,” Yurachek stated, “Our goal has been and continues to be to instill confidence in our student-athletes and their parents and athletic department staff that they can return safely to campus.”
Yurachek said the Razorbacks training rooms and workout areas “will go through a very extreme disinfection and sanitation process” this week in preparation for the return of athletes who will undergo physical screening before they are cleared for workouts, will have temperatures taking daily with anything 100.4 or above removing them from workouts to be tested.
Plans are in place to reduce to 16 at time for athletes in the football weight rooms and there’s a plan in place for athletes to enter buildings one way and exit another.
“We’re going to have some educational sessions with them,” Yurachek said. “Social distancing, it can’t just be where we have a watchful eye on them in our campus venues.”
Yurachek and director of sports medicine Dave England said quarantine plans are in place for any athlete testing positive for covid-19.
For now plans following Central of Disease Control and SEC Medical Task Force guidelines, covid-19 testing involves only those athletes with symptoms or those coming from recent coronavirus “hot spots” including New Orleans, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Plans for now set on UA class being in fall semester session and for the football stands to accommodate all they can hold but, Yurachek said, “we also have preparations in the background that are being made if we have to limit capacity. We have sold approximately 31,000 season tickets for football. We have stopped selling any single-game tickets for home or away games until we really figure out what that looks like definitively because we don’t want to sell thousands of single-game tickets to our SEC games and then have to refund that money or decide which of those patrons cannot attend the games.”
Yurachek said plans for the athletes’ return and the crowd management, and safety for games remain fluid as they have since the coronavirus hit home to college athletics in mid-March. “It’s probably changed every day these last four weeks,” Yurachek said. “And it will continue to evolve and change. We will make better decisions as an industry the further we get into the summer before we make many of those decisions.”