Penn State athletics began its second phase of student-athlete return to campus on Monday with a group that includes additional football players and the starting return of men's and women's basketball athletes.
The first return phase began on June 8 and has included screening, testing, social distancing and other measures to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 among student-athletes, coaches and support staffs.
Football players already on campus are taking part in voluntary workouts and will be joined by their fellow teammates in the coming days following a quarantine period. Student athletes are being housed in a combination of on and off campuses housing including local hotels.
The new wave of football players includes enrolling freshman not already on campus. Since workouts are voluntary not all student-athletes returned at the outset of the first phase including star linebacker Micah Parsons who opted to return this week after spending Father's Day with his son.
Penn State Athletics has implemented and is enforcing the following protocols:
- Education for all student-athletes, coach and staff on Penn State’s COVID safety protocols.
- Mandatory daily health screening questionnaire and temperature check for student-athletes, coaches and staff.
- Required use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Adherence to social distancing guidelines for meetings and workouts, including the use of smaller groups for performance enhancement session.
- Enhanced cleaning for all athletics facilities.
- Limited and monitored access to facilities.
The NCAA also recently approved and ratified a six-week return schedule that allows programs to safely ramp up workouts and team-activities prior to the start of training camp at the beginning of August. That period began during the voluntary workout period throughout the whole of June and will begin in earnest with non-voluntary workouts on July 13. According to a Penn State spokesperson, student athletes will stay in town throughout the duration of the summer programming.
Upcoming dates during that six-week ramp-up period are as follows.
- July 13: Team workouts (Eight hours)
- July 24: Walkthroughs, team meetings (20 hours)
- Aug 7: Practice begins (Normal preseason timing and practice rules)
The NCAA has not yet announced broader plans for men's and women's basketball returning to non-voluntary workouts but with that window so far away it is not expected to do so any time soon.
Penn State has also not announced any positive tests for COVID-19 among its staff or student-athletes and it is unclear if the university or athletic department would do so publicly beyond required reporting to local and state officials. Multiple athletic departments across the country have opted to publicize their positive tests but the NCAA is not requiring them to do so.
A long and almost certainly bump road lies ahead for Penn State and all college athletic departments between now and the scheduled start of the football season. But as of Monday, that road is still on track for the season to begin on time.