EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The NCAA Division I Council voted Wednesday to allow football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball student-athletes back on campus for voluntary workouts beginning June 1, 2020, according to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel. The current NCAA moratorium on athletic activities for all sports is set to expire May 31, 2020.
It is unclear at this time how UTEP will handle voluntary workouts this summer, but university leadership is working to be proactive as possible during these uncertain times.
“In some ways, it’s becoming comfortable with uncertainty,” said UTEP President Dr. Heather Wilson. “Athletics isn’t a bad example of this. Most universities are administering things in the same way this year as we did last year. If you’re an athlete, you have to be sensitive to what’s going on around you and make that split second decision to roll right instead of rolling left. So, agility in leadership is important right now.”
It starts from the top with NCAA President Mark Emmert. However, Emmert admits a decision on when and if fall sports, including college football, should return will hinge on the leadership at the university level.
“I’m not the ultimate arborator of this, ” said Emmert in an interview with NBC Sports. “It’s going to be a decision that each of the campuses are going to have to make on their own.”
While Wilson is comfortable in making that decision at UTEP, she will also lean heavily on Conference USA. Two-thirds of the Miners’ 2020 football schedule consists of conference opponents.
“You can’t have a football game with only one team on the field,” said Wilson. “So, it’s not entirely correct that it’s an individual decision, there’s also a collective decision that goes into it.”
Some members of the UTEP Athletics Department have already returned to campus in preparation for the return of student-athletes. The plan is for fall sports student-athletes to return to campus in an official capacity July, but a lot has to be done before Wilson gives the green light.
“There’s all kinds of planning that goes into this, which is one of the reasons we brought the athletics leadership back first,” said Wilson. “There’s so many things in respect to how to do training, how to keep equipment clean, how to keep students far enough away from each other when they’re working out, and then there’s the whole question of testing procedures and what is the best practice. We will be following the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and doing the best we can to maintain the health of our student-athletes.”
While Wilson continues to work on a plan for the safe return of student-athletes in July, she is relying on UTEP Director of Athletics Jim Senter to stay in constant communication with Miners’ head coaches.
“He [Senter] is working through his plan with his teams and his coaches,” said Wilson. “We communicate pretty much everyday and as we go through this planning, we’ll give ourselves assessments as to what’s happening with the disease, and then we’ll decide to roll right or roll left.”
There is no playbook when you’re facing an adversary that is unpredictable, but UTEP is committed to the safe return of college football and all university athletics in 2020-21.