The University of Oklahoma announced today that it will re-open its facilities for voluntary football workouts on July 1.
OU Vice President and Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione said the decision positions OU to meet its goals while being fully prepared.
"As we have planned for the re-opening of our facilities, the health of our student-athletes and staff has been our top priority," he said. "It is the principal that has guided every step of our meticulous process. At OU, we are fortunate to have one of the most respected teams of doctors and athletic trainers in the country. We have looked to them for direction in our preparation and protocols. They will continue to play an important role in the weeks leading up to our opening and beyond.
"We believe in our approach and are convinced that it best positions our student-athletes and staff for long-term success. It is with great excitement that we look forward to their return in preparation for the upcoming sports seasons."
Upon return to Norman, OU's student-athletes will be evaluated for clearance by the OU medical staff. Student-athletes will be continuously monitored and will be expected to adhere to a number of safety protocols and guidelines.
"As I have stated before, we are going to approach this return with extreme care," said OU Head Football Coach Lincoln Riley. "We have received tremendous guidance from highly respected medical professionals, and we will follow their recommendations. We understand that the well-being of our student-athletes is at the top of our responsibilities. That's why we will be diligent in how we manage everything from the way we relate to each other to the cleaning of our facilities and beyond.
"Our medical personnel have told us that the safest thing we can do is keep our players off campus for as long as possible. We chose the latest point that we could bring them back and still have enough time to prepare."
OU Athletics' medicine staff coordinates with the OU Health Sciences Center, Norman campus student health officials, independent in-state and out-of-state infectious disease experts and public health specialists in the consideration of recommendation of return of athletes to campus.
Staff and student-athletes will receive extensive, advanced and ongoing education regarding facility usage and best practices for personal interaction. The athletics department also is implementing heightened cleaning and stringent safety policies for conduct.
OU Head Athletic Trainer Scott Anderson said the planning has been all-encompassing.
"We have been planning for this in some form since we left campus March 13," Anderson said. "We are fortunate to have a number of outstanding physicians working with us on a regular basis, and we also have the guidance of the OU Health Sciences Center. Our priority is precaution while making preparations in what are very fluid circumstances."
In this plan, other student-athletes will return later this summer in a phased approach.
"The best approach is to bring the student-athletes back in phases so that we can adequately prepare for them and offer the best possible care," Castiglione said. "We want to make sure that our staff can focus on each returning group appropriately and thoroughly."
In this first step, the vast majority of athletics department staff will continue to telecommute. No other tentative dates for return have been set.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who has been involved in creating the plan for return?
This plan has been developed by our medical staff, which has been working alongside our facilities staff and many other facets of the athletics department. This planning has been done in conjunction with the University of Oklahoma's Health Sciences Center, which has been a statewide leader in COVID-19 response. The OUHSC is providing direction for the entire OU campus.
What procedures are being introduced for individuals returning to campus?
Each student-athlete returning to Norman will be assessed by our medical staff before joining workouts.
What if a student-athlete tests positive for COVID-19?
For initial examination, a campus location has been designated where an individual can be examined for the virus. A campus housing facility has been designated to shelter and quarantine any student who tests positive. Any student-athlete who tests positive will receive care through the full resources of the OU medical staff.
What steps are being taken relative to staff?
Most OU Athletics staff members will continue to work from home. Staff members who are essential to accommodating student-athletes and our operations will be on site. They will be subject to initial screening and clearance with the on-campus Goddard Health Center before they return to work and will be subject to the same daily screening as our student-athletes.
How are the facilities being prepared?
All facilities have been disinfected in preparation for return. Targeted cleaning and sanitization will be in place for all facilities that are used. Staff members are also being provided with self-clean kits for their office space and signage to notify cleaning staff any time a space has been used. In addition to custodial services, fogging and spraying applications have been and will continue to be included in the protocols. The locker room will have specific procedures; the adjacent lounge has been closed. Special detergents have been acquired to thoroughly disinfect all workout clothing.
What other safety procedures are being introduced?
All individuals will wear masks provided by the athletics department and comply with social distancing rules. Special procedures are in place for elevator, staircase, restroom, meeting room and office use in addition to the workout facilities. All interior doors will remain open to reduce touch points. Hand sanitizer dispensers have been added in multiple locations throughout the facilities.
What are the workout procedures?
Initially, workout groups will include 10 or fewer participants who will work in open or partially open-air environments whenever possible. Social distancing will be enforced. Staff and student-athletes will be screened prior to being allowed to access the facility at one single controlled point of entry. Cameras will assist in the monitoring and enforcement of this required protocol. Surfaces and equipment will be cleaned prior to and after each use.