CHAMPAIGN — The Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics is set to reopen its facilities for the return of student-athletes for voluntary summer training as soon as June 3 in the first step for the return of sports in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan calls for groups of athletes to return to campus in staggered arrivals after the NCAA voted to end its moratorium on organized team activities June 1.
The DIA's return protocol will serve as a pilot program of sorts for the potential arrival of the entire student body for the fall semester. The athletic department's plan was developed primarily by the Illinois sports medicine staff, which worked with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, Carle physicians, the McKinley Health Center and SHIELD (the university's committee tasked with creating coronavirus testing protocols for the campus).
Football and men's basketball student-athletes are scheduled to return to campus first in small groups in early June according to a schedule that includes testing and initial periods of quarantine. The return protocol will include initial and ongoing viral and antibody testing, initial quarantining, contact tracing and arrangements for extended quarantine in the case of a positive COVID-19 test.
The current schedule projects for the return of women's basketball, volleyball and soccer student-athletes by early July. Further evaluation during the summer will determine when student-athletes from other Illinois teams can return.
The first football and men's basketball workouts, which will remain voluntary, are likely to begin the second or third week of June. The DIA developed its protocols with comparable procedures being crafted by the NFL, NBA, United States Olympic Committee, NCAA and the Big Ten. Those protocols include daily symptom checks and entry screenings; locker room, shower, and laundry procedures; guidance on group size and composition; directives regarding facility and equipment usage and cleaning; and expectations for safe coaching and instruction.
The nature of the voluntary workouts puts the decision to return in the student-athletes' hands. The DIA said it will honor all financial aid commitments, now and for the future, should a student-athlete decide not to participate because of pandemic-related concerns. The DIA will also provide information for third-party resources should student-athletes feel they are being pressured to participate in the voluntary workouts by coaches or staff in contradiction to the DIA's stated position on the matter.