Michigan State student-athletes can return to campus June 15

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

After months of sitting home, wondering when they’d be allowed to return, Michigan State’s student-athletes were given the go-ahead to begin arriving on campus on June 15 in preparation for voluntary summer workouts.

The school announced the move on Thursday, noting that student-athletes from the football, men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball programs will be the first to undergo testing.

After months of sitting home, wondering when they’d be allowed to return, Michigan State’s student-athletes were given the go-ahead to begin arriving on campus on June 15 in preparation for voluntary summer workouts.

“We are excited to welcome our student-athletes back to campus,” Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman said in a statement. “Our staff has put together a comprehensive plan with a clear priority on the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes. The strict protocols will allow our student-athletes to safely work out and begin to prepare for a return to competition.”

Michigan State said it developed its plan following safety guidelines from the State of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and CDC guidelines as well as on-campus medical professionals, and guidelines provided by the Big Ten Conference and the NCAA.

“In implementing our plan we considered guidance from many experts,” said Dr. Anthony Avellino, assistant vice president for health sciences/MSU health care chief clinical and medical officer/interim director of athletic medicine. “Our only priority was the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes. Understanding that our knowledge surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, we will continue to monitor the latest medical and public health information available and make adjustments as warranted.” 

On March 12, the Big Ten canceled all remaining winter and spring sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic and shut down all on-campus activities. That shutdown was extended at least twice, but when the NCAA announced two weeks ago that schools could begin allowing student-athletes back on June 1, it opened the door for the return.

Student-athletes at Michigan State will go through testing at a dedicated time depending on sport and that following testing student-athletes will be instructed to self-isolate in their on- or off-campus housing for one week. Student-athletes who return a positive test will be quarantined for a period of 10 days. On June 22, student-athletes who initially tested negative will be given a second round of COVID-19 testing. Student-athletes who receive a negative test during the second round will be cleared to begin voluntary summer workouts under the supervision of strength and conditioning and athletic training staffs. Student-athletes will be split into small workout groups based on the individuals with whom they live.

Michigan State athletics staff who will interact with student-athletes will also undergo testing. This includes strength and conditioning, athletic training, equipment and facilities staff members, as well as coaches who plan to meet with their student-athletes.

Freshmen and newcomers for football, men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball are scheduled to return on June 29. Hockey student-athletes will return to campus to begin their testing on July 6. Additional sports will return at a later date.

Common areas such as locker rooms, team lounges and fueling stations will remain closed. Rehabilitation appointments with athletic training and medical staff will be by appointment only. Student-athletes will be provided face masks and required to wear them at all times in the facilities except during their workouts. They also will receive a water bottle that they are to bring to each workout.

Once student-athletes have been cleared and they are taking part in workouts, they will be monitored each time they enter a facility.

“We will be doing symptom checks and temperature checks daily as athletes and staff walk into the facility,” said Dr. Jeff Kovan, Director of Sports Medicine and Performance/Primary Care Team Physician. “If anybody has any symptoms or a temperature, our first thought is we don't want them attending or coming to the session. They'll call in and we'll reach out to them and either decide if I need to see them medically and/or do some testing on them.”

The other emphasis will be to limit student-athletes to working out in small groups, something Kovan said that MSU will be “pretty strict” at enforcing.

“The intent is that if we keep our volume or number of athletes together in a small set, and their strength coach works with just that group and somebody in that group is positive, then we can isolate that individual group as opposed to the whole team,” Kovan said. “So we're going to try to focus it around roommates and people that spend time together to kind of limit the exposure beyond that.

“Is there a magic number that's going to say, ‘Hey, we've got to reevaluate this?’ The answer to that is, ‘Yes,” but I don't know what the number is yet. I think that's a decision that's going to probably go further up the chain and if we have a run of cases that are positive or multiple cases, then we have to evaluate where and why is it happening, and then utilize our resources across campus from our university position.”

Additional policies and procedures have been implemented to ensure that all areas and equipment utilized by student-athletes are cleaned thoroughly after each workout group, including both surface sanitizing procedures and equipment misting. In addition, high-touch areas will be regularly monitored and cleaned. Education on COVID-19 symptoms and how to stop the virus’ spread will be communicated as well as posted throughout the facilities.


Twitter: @mattcharboneau