Texas assistant coach Corby Meekins (left) works with the wide receivers during the first day of practice at the Denius Fields on March 11, 2019. ( RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Football

New coronavirus manual details how Texas football athletes return to on-campus workouts

Three weight-lifting areas, multiple hand-washing stations, temperature checks now part of the structure at Frank Denius Fields

Posted June 4th, 2020

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Story highlights
  • “What we're creating here is the very safest possible way for our student-athletes to get back to normalcy,” Del Conte said.
  • A university spokesman said the school must inform Austin/Travis County health officials if someone tests positive.

Texas football athletes and their families received a 19-page manual on Thursday from the athletic department that spells out how the Longhorns will return for summer workouts while dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

The “Texas Athletics Football Student-Athlete Return To Campus Plan” has detailed instructions about how players will be tested and where they can work out around UT’s indoor practice facility.

A copy of the manual was acquired by the American-Statesman; UT has yet to distribute it to the public.

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“All student-athletes and teams should plan to respond in a flexible way to varying levels of disease transmission in our facilities and be prepared to refine their approach as needed,” the manual states. “All student-athletes and teams need to consider how best to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and lower the impact in our facilities.”

In an interview with the Statesman, UT athletic director Chris Del Conte said the protocols being put in place “are for the safety of our student-athletes during these critical times.”

Texas tight end Cade Brewer runs through drills during spring practice last year at the Frank Denius practice fields. Current players are preparing to return to campus and resume workouts, but under revised conditions. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman)

“What we’re creating here is the very safest possible way for our student-athletes to get back to normalcy,” Del Conte said. “We’ve planned this in conjunction with our doctors at Dell Medical to bring our kids back in the safest possible manner.”

Texas is breaking the football team down into two groups — those who currently live off-campus around Austin and those who don’t. All athletes are asked to sign up for a walk-through orientation process to learn the procedures that will be happening at Frank Denius Fields.

From June 8-12, those who live off campus will go through these procedures, according to the manual. Any underclassmen or those who live out of town can return the week of June 15. The Big 12 has announced that voluntary offseason workouts can resume June 15.

Texas counts 17 freshmen and walk-ons who are joining the program. Anyone flying into Austin must self-quarantine for seven days, according to the manual.

Texas athletics plans on getting through football athlete testing before moving on to volleyball and women’s and men’s basketball athletes. The Big 12 announced that on-campus athletic activities can resume on a staggered schedule for various sports beginning July 1.

Much like a longer manual for employees, Texas athletics will require that football athletes to go through a series of steps before gaining admittance to the facilities.

First, all athletes will be required to fill out an online questionnaire before coming to campus. The questions ask whether the athlete has been in contact with anyone who tested positive for COVID or someone with coughing or shortness of breath.

Only roommates are allowed to carpool together to the fields, and those living by themselves must drive alone to campus, according to the manual.

All athletes must park in lot 37 and have face coverings while crossing Red River Street. The main entry gate to the practice fields is the only way in and out. They must pass a temperature check and wear a daily color-coded wristband, according to the manual. Those with elevated temperatures will be sent to a medical area at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

Three different weight-lifting areas have been created at Denius Fields — one at the sandpit on the north end and two more under coverings along the east perimeter. “No locker room access available during voluntary workouts,” the manual states. Hand sanitizing stations have also been established around the practice fields.

Head football trainer Donald Nguyen will oversee those who either test positive or are presumed to have the coronavirus. An athlete who tests positive can return only after being symptom-free “for 72 hours without the use of medication and at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.”

A university spokesman said the school must inform Austin/Travis County health officials if someone tests positive. UT athletics must share that athlete’s name and identifiable data. However, it’s unclear if UT will share that information with the public. The university is bound by federal laws that protect an athlete’s health information and must get an athlete’s permission. 

Texas football coaches have been working inside Royal-Memorial Stadium for two weeks, have gone through daily similar protocols and have not had anyone test positive.

Asked whether UT will be transparent, Del Conte said, “We’re going to follow all protocols set by the state and the University of Texas.”

Oklahoma State announced that three athletes tested positive but were asymptomatic. “Positives were expected and the plan for that scenario has been activated. We will be as forthcoming as possible on the covid issues,” OSU spokesman Kevin Klintworth tweeted. The Athletic reported Thursday that at least five Alabama players have tested positive. 

Still, getting athletes back on campus is another major step toward a full college football season.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday that pro and college sports stadiums can reopen at 50% capacity, up from 25% in May.

“Every day we learn,” Del Conte said. “I’ve been planning the entire time for 100% capacity in DKR, and I’ll continue to plan. Every day there’s more and more encouraging news.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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