With the regular football season delayed until Sept. 26 and training camps starting this week, the Southeastern Conference announced its COVID-19 management requirements on Friday. All 14 institutions must follow the standards in order to play this season.
The plan includes twice-weekly COVID-19 testing for student-athletes during competition for sports including football, volleyball and soccer.
The SEC’s Return to Safety and Medical Guidance Task Force has met regularly since April to determine the most effective procedures for testing and monitoring the virus. This task force also developed the guidelines.
“Our Medical Task Force is producing an effective strategy for testing and monitoring, which complements the vigilant day-to-day efforts of our campuses to establish and maintain healthy environments in which our student-athletes can train and compete,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “Our health experts have guided us through each stage of preparation for the safe return of activity and, together with the medical staffs embedded within our athletics programs, we will continue to monitor developments around the virus and evolve our plan to meet the health needs of our student-athletes.”
The task force will continue to review each guideline as new information surfaces. In the meantime, these guidelines will set the minimum standard for every school.
The SEC will release an additional pre-season report from the task force on Aug. 31.
Here is a full list of the newest guidelines:
- The SEC will coordinate centralized testing through a third-party provider to ensure consistency in surveillance and pre-competition testing. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the current standard testing method for the COVID-19 virus. Alternative testing methods may be considered if sufficient data develops to support those methods.
- Football players and others in direct contact with the program will receive a PCR surveillance test at least twice-weekly during competition, typically six days and three days prior to competition. The Task Force recommends exploring alternative testing methods that will accommodate a third test that will provide for a reliable and rapid response necessary for diagnostic testing closer to competition.
- Volleyball players, soccer players and others in direct contact with these programs will receive a PCR surveillance test at least twice weekly during competition, with one to occur three days prior to the first competition of the week. The Task Force recommends exploring alternative testing methods that will accommodate a third test, as well.
- Cross-country runners and others in direct contact with the program will receive a PCR surveillance test at least once per week during competition, with that test to occur three days prior to each competition.
- In football, volleyball and soccer, all coaches, staff and non-competing personnel will be required to wear face coverings on the sideline and physical distancing will be employed to the extent possible.
- In cross country, competing student-athletes are required to wear a face covering at the starting line, which may be removed when runners are properly distanced. Coaches and staff associated with cross country competition are expected to social distance to the extent possible and will be required to wear a face covering during pre- and post-competition.
- Each institution is required to designate a COVID-19 Protocol Oversight Officer who will be responsible for education and ensuring compliance with the SEC’s COVID-19 management requirements.
- The SEC announced in July that student-athletes in all sports who elect to not participate in intercollegiate athletics during the fall 2020 academic semester because of health and/or safety concerns related to COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarships honored by their university and will remain in good standing with their team.
- The full SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Requirements for COVID-19 Management of Fall Sports can be found here.