The Southeastern Conference announced Friday afternoon that voluntary in-person athletic activities can resume on the league's 14 campuses on June 8 under guidelines developed by each institution.
Such activities are currently suspended through May 31 due to coronavirus concerns that first engulfed the SEC on March 12, when the men's basketball tournament in Nashville was canceled. According to league commissioner Greg Sankey, the decision to resume workouts was made with the guidance of the SEC's Return to Activity and Medical Guidance task forces.
"The safe and healthy return of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and our greater university communities have been and will continue to serve as our guiding principle as we navigate this complex and constantly-evolving situation," Sankey said in an SEC release. "At this time, we are preparing to begin the fall sports season as currently scheduled, and this limited resumption of voluntary athletic activities on June 8 is an important initial step in that process.
"Thanks to the blueprint established by our task force and the dedicated efforts of our universities and their athletics programs, we will be able to provide our student-athletes with far better health and wellness education, medical and psychological care, and supervision than they would otherwise receive on their own while off campus or training at public facilities as states continue to reopen."
The COVID-19 pandemic also all but erased spring football practice, as eight SEC programs never held the first workout.
"We are prepared and excited for the return of student-athletes to campus," Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer said. "Health and safety have been our top priority as we've gone about this planning process, and we'll continue to follow guidance from medical experts and health officials as we navigate the coming weeks."
Said Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn: "This is an important first step toward having a season this fall, and we will continue to collectively work together as our top priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff."
The league will implement a process that involves screening before student-athletes arrive on campus, within 72 hours of entering athletic facilities and on a daily basis upon resumption of athletic activities.
"While each institution will make its own decisions in creating defined plans to safely return student-athletes to activity, it is essential to employ a collaborative approach that involves input from public health officials, coaches, sports medicine staff, sports performance personnel and student-athletes," Sankey said.