Oklahoma football: New details revealed as OU prepares for players’ return

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 29: An end zone pylon during the Baylor Bears vs. Oklahoma Sooners game at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on September 29, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Baylor 66-33. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 29: An end zone pylon during the Baylor Bears vs. Oklahoma Sooners game at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on September 29, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Baylor 66-33. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

In a few days we will learn how effective OU’s delayed-opening plan has worked as Oklahoma football players start returning next week.

Related Story. 2020 college football season not quite the sure thing many think. light

As the Sooner players prepare to return to campus on July 1 for voluntary workouts, the university has disclosed new details about the plans in place to protect against COVID-19 concerns.

The OU athletics department has been busy in recent weeks preparing for the arrival of the Sooner players. Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU’s chief COVID officer and a professor for the Oklahoma College of Medicine and Public Health, has been a lead figure, along with the OU medical staff, in establishing several new protocols that will be put in place as a result of what has been learned in recent weeks following the return of the players at other schools that opened up several weeks ahead of the Sooners.

Prior to their return, each Sooner player is receiving a packet of information detailing the protocols that are being implemented, along with all the procedures that are being followed from recommendations by the Center for Disease Control.

The players also will view a video outlining the pathways to be taken throughout the facilities, including single points of entry and exit. In addition, signs have been posted throughout the football and housing facilities providing the correct pathways and the CDC recommendations.

Masks are being provided to each returning player as well as support personnel. The athletic department noted that increased cleaning and sanitization is being performed throughout the facilities and there will be restrictions for locker room, elevator and restroom occupancy.

Importantly, at any point during the 2020-21 school year that any student-athlete feels uncomfortable with any activity due to COVID-19 concerns , they can remove themselves with no impact on team standing or financial aid.

Oklahoma players return to campus July 1 for voluntary workouts.

The first two days of the players’ return will consist of medical testing, including COVID-19 testing. Any player or staff member who tests positive for coronavirus will be quarantined on campus and supported by the OU medical staff. Support personnel who test positive will be quarantined at their homes.

Contact tracing will be done in coordination with the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Goddard Health Center on campus to determine others who may have been exposed by individuals who test positive for the virus.

Initially, workouts will be limited to group size of no more than 10.

All student-athletes will shower at their place of residence instead of the football facility. Occupancy at Headington Hall, where the players are housed on campus, will be limited to two per room. Seventy-two percent of the rooms at Headington Hall are single occupancy.

For a detailed list of the protocols, click here.

With all the positive COVID-19 cases that are cropping up with players having returned to campus at schools throughout the country, there is growing concern about whether there will be a 2020 college football season.

Earlier this week Clemson reported 23 players had tested positive for the coronavirus. That number is now up to 37. Kansas State suspended football workouts last week because 14 players tested positive, and there are reports that Texas Tech had 23 positive tests.

There was great optimism around the college football world prior to June that college football would be played in the fall. Some, including Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, were saying that by September the world is going to need football.

In recent days, however, that optimism has been waning. The players themselves are beginning to speak out about the increased health risk to which they are being concerned.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that UCLA players do not trust that the school is acting in their best interest in regard to their health and safety. Thirty UCLA players have signed a document demanding that a third-party health official be on hand for all football activities to assure that protocols for COVID-19 prevention are followed.

We could start to see a cascade of similar action by players around the country who believe they are being put at unnecessary health risk by schools trying desperately to save the 2020 college football season.

At the beginning of the current COVID-19 pandemic in the United State, Riley told OU play-by-play announcer Toby Rowland on his “T-Row in the Morning” radio show on Sports Talk 1400 KREF,

"“The 2020 season is obviously going to be predetermined by our nation’s response to the virus and how seriously people take it, and do we all take the steps to not only protect ourselves, but more importantly to protect each other.”"

Most of us are taking COVID-19 seriously, but despite our best efforts, the reponse may not be enough to save the 2020 college football season. After all, player health and safety has to be the first priority.