EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Approximately 45 UTEP football players returned to campus on Monday for voluntary workouts. It was the first time the Miners have been together as a team since March when spring football was canceled at the midway point due to COVID-19.
Student-athletes who are working out on-campus have all tested negative for the coronavirus and everyone who walks through the doors at the Larry K. Durham Center undergoes wellness screening before and after workouts. Workouts are done in groups of no more than 15 with facemasks worn at all times while indoors.
Due to NCAA compliance, football staff members and administrators are not permitted in team facilities for voluntary workouts. Trainers and strength coaches are the only ones allowed to interact with student-athletes during voluntary workouts.
“The first day back was really good for them,” said UTEP head football coach Dana Dimel. “They have to get themselves back on track and get themselves in a structured workout where they’re getting, more than anything, the cardio part of it. They all seem to be doing well and look good with what they’ve been able to do with the weightlifting part of it, but you can never really maximize the cardio part of it until you have a strength coach pushing you and getting you going.”
UTEP, like most programs across the country, has relied on Zoom conference calls to meet and workout as a team. However, nothing can supplement in-person workouts and the precautions being taken to keep student-athletes safe is the only way to do it.
The NCAA approved a plan for student-athletes to return June 1, but administrators at UTEP waited another two weeks to put the NCAA’s guidelines and some of their own into place.
“I think we have a really detailed plan that we put into action,” said Dimel. “As a coach, you’re so excited to have them back, but you want to make sure you don’t set them backwards. We did a good job today of keeping them in smaller groups as we go through the growing pains. There were groups of 10-to-15 guys in each group. That worked out well and is keeping them safe.”
The UTEP football program has had one known case of the coronavirus. Forest McKee took to Twitter in April to announce he had tested positive for the virus.
The goal for UTEP is to increase group size and work towards meeting in an official team capacity come July. Fall camp is still scheduled to begin in August and the Miners are hoping to open the season on time at the Sun Bowl on Saturday, September 5, against Texas Tech.