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NCAA paves way for football, basketball workouts to resume on June 1

Clemson Practice Saturday00.jpg (copy)

The NCAA decided Wednesday to allow football players to resume voluntary workouts on June 1. Here, Clemson’s Will Swinney throws up his arms during a Clemson football practice at Saturday, Jan. 5, 2018 at San Jose State University. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

College football took a step toward having a 2020 season of some kind on Wednesday, when the NCAA's Division I council voted to lift a nationwide ban that had been in place for on-campus activities in June.

The decision means student-athletes in football and men's and women's basketball can return to campuses starting June 1 for voluntary workouts. The council's vote was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

College sports has been shut down since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a moratorium on all athletic activities through May 31.

Yahoo Sports reported that the ability for schools to have student-athletes return will depend largely on their state and local government restrictions.

Administrators from SEC schools are expected to vote on Friday on whether to open their athletic facilities by June 1. SEC athletic directors are slated to vote on the same issue on Thursday.

Clemson president Jim Clements on Wednesday announced the university plans to open in the fall with in-person classes and students in residence hallls. The decision, announced during a Board of Trustees meeting, would seem to pave the way for the return of football activity on campus.

The University of South Carolina also plans to resume on-campus classes in August, and The Citadel has announced that cadets are expected to return to campus the same month.

Decisions on a return to workouts for other sports are expected soon from the NCAA.

From Notre Dame to LSU and more, a number of other schools have announced plans to reopen their campuses for the fall semester, and conferences have begun setting up plans for how to play football amid the coronavirus pandemic. The latest came this week with the Florida State system announcing plans for its 12 schools and more than 420,000 students.

Many questions remain, including specific safety protocols and whether fans would be allowed if games proceed.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said he believes the Buckeyes could safely play home games with 20,000 to 30,000 fans in its home stadium, which seats about 105,000.

“I think we can get there,” Smith said in an Associated Press story.

There’s also the matter of making sure players can safely practice.

Middle Tennessee athletic director Chris Massaro said his school plans to take the temperature of players daily and make sure they are wearing masks. Massaro has even discussed moving some equipment from the weight room to the Red Floyd Stadium concourse to make sure workouts allow social distancing.

“We’re a little bit kind of almost like guinea pigs,” Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill said. “We’re the ones that are coming back first, football’s coming back first all across the country. So we’ve got to make sure we’re doing our part so there’s not a setback, and it’s going to take all of us buying in and doing whatever we can to keep everybody else healthy and safe.”

The presidents of Miami and Notre Dame said in separate interviews they expect the football season to be played.

Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins told MSNBC he expects to have clarity on how,  or if,  the football season can happen in the next few weeks.

“The team itself, I feel we can manage that one,” Jenkins said. “Then the question is people in the stands. We have an 85,000-person stadium. Can we get 85,000 people in there? That will be a big challenge to do that. But could we get a smaller number —  10,000, 15,000, 20,000? I don’t know.”

Miami President Julio Frenk told CNN he hopes the Hurricanes can play this fall and that safety would be the top priority.

“They will probably play in empty stadiums, like so many other sports,” Frenk said.

Most athletic departments need the revenue generated from football to fund their other sports. Hundreds of schools are reeling financially from the effects of the pandemic. Athletic departments, particularly at smaller schools and in Division II, have already cut a number of sports.

Furman University in Greenville announced Monday it was cutting its baseball and men's lacrosse programs immediately.

The NCAA this week lowered the minimum and maximum number of games Division II schools are required to play in all sports next year. The move includes a 33% reduction in the minimum number of games needed for sponsorship and championship qualification in most sports.

Under the plan, D-II schools must play at least five football games to maintain NCAA sponsorship and at least seven games to be eligible for playoff consideration. The maximum number of allowable games is 10.

The requirements would return to normal in 2021-22.

David Cloninger, Josh Needelman and The Associated Press contributed. 

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC

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