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Starting slow and safe

Tech football players to begin reporting on Monday
Sunday, May 31, 2020
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Louisiana Tech head football coach Skip Holtz (left) and his Bulldogs. shown during a 2018 preseason workout, will have to adhere to Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 guidelines when they report next week to begin preparing for the start of preseason conditioning workouts on June 8.

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Louisiana Tech strength coach Kurt Hester (above) will be the only coach allowed to work with players in the Davison Athletics Complex weight room.

Returning Louisiana Tech football players will be taking small, slow and safe steps as they return to campus as early as Monday to begin voluntary workouts on June 8.

Every student-athlete who decides to return to campus will need to receive general medical clearance, not CO-VID-19 related, before they can participate in workouts beginning June 8, Tech athletics director Tommy McClelland said Thursday during a teleconference with members of the media.

“We want to begin to wade out into this water,” McClelland said. “We don’t want to jump off into this and find we can’t handle it with adequate safety and sanitation.”

Part of those slow, baby steps into things will include football players being screened for coronavirus symptoms in accordance with the Center for Disease Control’s COVID-19 guidelines by answering a questionnaire, having their temperature checked the first thing each day and being given a colored wristband that designates they’ve been cleared for the day.

“We’ve got to begin to onboard them in terms of physicals, testing them, doing the things to reintroduce them back to that stuff is going to be the week of June 1,” Mc-Clelland said. “That’s not when they’re going to work out because they’ve got to be cleared medically first, not coronavirus related, but just in general.”

Upon their return to campus, Tech football players will be sectioned off into groups of 10, and that group will only be allowed to work out with each other. Tech strength and conditioning coach Kurt Hester will be the only coach allowed in the weight room with each group of athletes.

“I understand it’s hard to not have cross-pollination in other areas of their lives in terms of where they live and other things,” McClelland said. “We want to do the best way possible to create a group of kids so in the event that someone were to test positive, we can try to isolate that and contact trace as opposed to disrupt the other groups. That’s the anticipation.”

“If there are individuals that can’t get back to Ruston or would rather wait a couple of weeks, it’s completely voluntary,” McClelland said. “The only coach allowed in there is Kurt Hester. No attendance is being checked. It’s just our ability to begin the transition back for these student-athletes.”

McClelland said that football players who do not currently have a place to stay, the athletics department will attempt to have them bunk with another player in their group of 10.

“The kids that are returning that already have leases, they’ve got a place to stay,” McClelland said. “The kids that were on campus and have gone home, those are the kids we’re trying to figure out a way to get them bunked up with someone. The issue is with our dorms right now, they’re not receiving any new kids. That could change in the second session of summer school in July.”

Tech’s first summer quarter is online only but the university has hopes of holding inperson classes during its second summer quarter.

“It’s about keeping them together in their group,” McClelland said. “It’s trying to manage who they’re with as best as possible. You’re wanting them to be sterile, but we all know they’re college kids, they’re going to get together and do things. The main thing is when they are together they’re being as responsible as possible. That’s why it’s important to daily screen because if things change, we can catch it early.”

The Bulldogs won’t be inviting their whole football team back to campus right off. Incoming freshmen, as well as a few transfers, will come later. McClelland said he anticipates between 60 and 70 players to be back at some point next week.

Tech head football coach Skip Holtz and his coaching staff will also be facing social distancing standards when they return on Monday.

“If (coaches) are in their office by themselves, watching film or what have you, they don’t have to wear a mask,” McClelland said. “But in groups of two, both parties will be required to wear a mask. If coaches having staff meetings or oneon-one conversation with somebody in their office, they’re going to be wearing masks,” he said.

Tech’s football locker room will be off limits to the players when they return.

“Until we get a better hold on things, we want to delay as long as we can them congregating in the locker room.”

McClelland said Tech’s weight room will be wiped down after each use as will other points of contact, such as offices and meeting rooms each tine after being used.

He also said the athletics department has purchased disinfectant fog machines similar to ones airlines use to clean planes to help keep areas sanitary.

McClelland said the plan for the football team will be on a testing grounds of sorts before decisions are made about other student athletes

“For the other sports, we’re not going to (bring them back yet),” Mc-Clelland said. “It’s either going to be the following week or maybe even getting into July.”

All of the COVID-19 measure, will be used for the foreseeable future, but McClelland said that as football season draws closer, things could ease up depending on the student-athletes’ health as a whole, adding that it’s too early at this point to predict what the actual football season might look like.”

“We’re doing it as the student-athletes come back and throughout the summer,” McClelland said. It’s going to be more of the symptomatic conversation,” he said. “As we get into the fall, there may be some other guidelines we adhere to as it relates to competition.”