Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos made it official Friday: Husker student-athletes are set to begin returning to campus facilities for voluntary training.
He said the plan is for football players and men's and women's basketball players, volleyball players and soccer players to return to campus June 1, with other sports to follow in coming weeks. Voluntary training means no coaching is allowed at this point in time as college athletics strives to return to normalcy during the coronavirus pandemic.
Nebraska student-athletes will enter through North Stadium "arriving in small groups with staggered arrivals," Moos told the Journal Star.
"We've made considerable movement here," he added. "Hopefully, we can get some of these other sports in here soon, too. But I think it's important we start with limited numbers and show our signs of success, and then advance hopefully from there."
Earlier this week, the NCAA Division I Council voted to allow student-athletes to return to campus for voluntary, on-campus workouts from June 1 to June 30, and the Big Ten’s ban on in-person activities is currently set to end June 1 as well.
School officials confirmed to the Journal Star on Friday that construction on the massive facility, which is set to rise on the current Ed Weir Track, will not begin in June as scheduled.
"Now, there are some (student-athletes) who are already here in Lincoln, who have been here, but we're going to start bringing them in in waves," Moos said. "We do have a comprehensive plan that ensures safety for the student-athletes, the staff and the community. It's a very sophisticated plan that we've been working on."
He said Nebraska as of Friday has 150 to 175 student-athletes on campus. At least 50 of them are football players, he said.
"When student-athletes return, we have a detailed plan that includes questions regarding places they've traveled to and who they've been around," Moos said. "We'll quarantine them upon arrival, and they'll have COVID-19 testing. And I have to say UNMC has been outstanding working with us."
He said there will be temperature checks for student-athletes arriving at North Stadium as well as supervised hand washing. Masks and gloves will be worn, and there will be "constant cleaning of facilities, especially the workout areas," Moos said.
He also said there will be no locker room access until further notice.
"That can be a breeding ground (for germs)," he said.
Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook said he feels NU is ahead of the curve in terms of pushing forward amid the pandemic.
"We've been very proactive and a lot of schools around the country have been studying what we're doing," he said. "We're on the cutting edge of trying to keep the athletes safe, get them back here, keep everybody back here safe. We're working with a medical center up in Omaha with the testing and everything and they're doing some studies.
"It's a pretty cool deal and I think we're ahead of 99 percent of the country."
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Illinois on Friday laid out a plan that includes the first football and men's basketball players to start returning to facilities on June 3, and earlier this week Ohio State made a similar announcement about players returning on June 8.
The Illinois announcement said the school plans feature "a tightly choreographed schedule" that includes "initial and ongoing viral and antibody testing, initial quarantining, contact tracing, and arrangements for extended quarantine and care of any student-athlete testing positive for COVID-19."
The Illinois announcement also said the plan is similar to what other schools in the Big Ten are using.
Moos said Nebraska's plan for bringing student-athletes back to campus is detailed and thorough enough that the Big Ten requested that it be shared with other schools in the conference.
"I've said this as I've taken my stance in Big Ten meetings: The safest place for our student-athletes is Lincoln, Nebraska," Moos said. "And the safest place in Lincoln, Nebraska, is in our facilities."
He emphasized the "voluntary" part of the equation.
"We can't call that linebacker in Texas or wherever and say, 'You get your butt up here,'" Moos said. "We're very sensitive to the comfort of the student-athlete and such."
That said, "Our student-athletes are better off getting out of the hot spots for this virus and getting to the clean environment of Lincoln, where we are fueling them properly with our nutrition piece," Moos said. "Our academic support people, even though they are not seeing student-athletes face to face, they're organized. Same goes for our life skills people and all of our medical people, including our psychologists.
"All of our areas that touch our young people are right here and accessible. Then we go the extra length with very strict protocol with testing and everything like that when they come back to town."
Moos said Nebraska officials would rather student-athletes train in campus facilities as opposed to local health clubs.
"We're cautious of letting them go to those places because you don't know who's been using the equipment," the AD said.
Moos said Big Ten athletic directors have been participating for the past eight weeks on a conference call every weekday morning at 7:45. The call includes Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren and several members of his staff. The football coaches are brought into the call at times.
The dialogue has been healthy, Moos said.
"I think it could become the means of our communication for months and months to come," he said.
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