Big 12 presidents and chancellors on Friday cleared the way for student-athletes to return to campus to engage in voluntary activities related to their sports.
Beginning June 15, football student-athletes will be permitted to access campus athletic facilities and support personnel for voluntary conditioning and training exercises.
Volleyball, soccer and cross country student-athletes are able to return July 1. All other Big 12 student-athletes may return to campus for voluntary sport-related activities July 15.
This phased approach is intended to permit gradual adoption of best practices for mitigation of COVID-19 as well as ensuring a safe environment and appropriately prepared facilities. Until these dates, the conference’s activities policy that was scheduled to sunset May 31 remains in effect for all Big 12 student-athletes.
The Big 12 Board of Directors' vote on Friday continues forward momentum toward a college football season amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic.
This week, Texas announced students would be returning to campus for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 26.
Under the Big 12's current coronavirus guidelines, which are in place through May 31, schools have been prohibited from conducting any on-campus activities - voluntary or otherwise.
In casting Friday's vote, Big 12 presidents and chancellors are telling their member schools to use the student-athletes' return to campus for voluntary workouts in campus weight rooms and athletic facilities as an important lead-up to mandated team activities.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said last week football student-athletes would need to begin a six-week buildup to football season by July 15 if the college football season - as scheduled - is to start on time.
Schools across the league have been discussing the preparations and precautions necessary to have their athletic facilities as safe as possible for student-athletes to use for training.
Bowlsby said the safety measures for student-athletes will need to include voracious attention to detail in sanitizing common workout areas as well as testing for student-athletes and support staff. Bowlsby has said college athletics officials should plan on having to "co-exist" with COVID-19 for 24 months, adding that testing and pandemic protocols will be expensive (right now $100 per test).
Texas announced on Wednesday students will be back on campus for the fall semester — starting Aug. 26 — and then will go home for Thanksgiving and remain home and take finals remotely (to help avoid any second wave of COVID-19).
Also on Wednesday, the NCAA Division I Council voted to allow football and basketball student-athletes to participate in voluntary, on-campus activities beginning June 1. The Big 12 vote on Friday cleared the way for those workouts to begin at league schools on June 15 for football.
The voluntary, on-campus activities can’t include coaches or any coaching directed workouts.
Teams will continue to be given eight hours per week for coaches to meet with players (right now via video conferencing).
“We encourage each school to use its discretion to make the best decisions possible for football and basketball student-athletes within the appropriate resocialization framework,” the DI council chair M. Grace Calhoun, the athletic director at Pennsylvania, said in a statement.
"Allowing for voluntary athletics activity acknowledges that reopening our campuses will be an individual decision but should be based on advice from medical experts.”