The University of Arizona will not be bringing any additional student athletes back to campus for the time being, but training continues for soccer players who are already there.
The UA announced on Monday that it would interrupt its return plan, which began on June 15 with a group of 19 footballers participating in voluntary on-campus training. The Star misinterpreted the school’s press release initially, assuming it meant the entire program had been discontinued.
Arizona Athletic Director Dave Heeke clarified the situation in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon, saying that the 83 student athletes who had returned all footballers would continue to train.
We were very confident in our return plan and the ongoing processes for student athletes who are on campus, Heeke said. We just felt it was appropriate not to expand that group at this time as our community is experiencing a wave of cases and our hospitals are reaching their maximum capacity.
Pima County reported 436 new COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday afternoon, bringing the total to 8,004. The province also reported a positive test rate of 8.3%.
Only one of the 83 footballers who trained on campus in June tested positive. That player has been placed in the athletics department for positive tests, according to the school. Athletes are tested weekly for COVID-19 and coronavirus antibodies.
The break applies to newcomers to football, including freshmen, who would arrive in Tucson next Monday and begin training on July 13; and soccer and volleyball players, who would also start on campus in July.
There is no reason at all, Heeke said when she pressed the break. We were very aware of the current conditions (in the province), and that is part of bringing new individuals into an environment that is somewhat stressed. We just don’t think this is appropriate.
Heeke said the decision was a joint decision, made in consultation with the campus leadership, from which the Athletics Department takes its cues on pandemic policy. The break was in the works before Governor Doug Duceys announced on Monday afternoon that bars, gyms and some other companies would be closed for at least 30 days.
The UA asked on Tuesday for clarification from the governor’s office to determine whether the gym’s closings would apply to the university’s training facilities.
We didn’t get any additional restrictions, Heeke said, allowing the training to continue.
The UA has divided the training groups into pods of 10 or less people and has spread the workouts across multiple times and locations, including the Arizona Stadium, the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility weight room, the Cole and Jeannie Davis Sports Center, and the McKale Center weight room. . They follow a schedule from Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The training sessions took place on Monday and are expected to resume on Wednesday.
A handful of experienced footballers expressed their concerns about their safety via social media on Tuesday. Commenting on a story in which UA President Robert C. Robbins said he would not be opening the campus at this time due to the exponential growth in the number of cases here, cornerback Malik Hausman tweeted: So why (are) me and my team on the campus?
Hausman, who is from Las Vegas, said his mother was going to pick him up. Then he tweeted, “I never said I was afraid of COVID-19, and I never said my school wasn’t taking the right precautions.” In my opinion, my school is doing everything in the best possible way to avoid being affected by COVID-19.
Tweeted senior linebacker Kylan Wilborn: College athletes need to make their voices heard now more than ever! If you feel that your institution is running unnecessary risks, it is your job to speak about it. IT’S YOUR HEALTH!
Heeke repeated that training is strictly voluntary.
Anyone who may feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or worried is free to go back home or change the environment they are in, Heeke said.
He added that he was unaware of any student athletes who chose to quit training.
Speaking to the student-athlete families affected by the break, Heeke said the overall feeling was appreciation for the abundance of communication the school has provided. An incoming soccer player told the star that the UA has been great at keeping him and his family up to date.
As for when the newcomers to football and soccer and volleyball players will start their campus training, Heeke said the decision will be made based only on medical information and scientific data.
We want to make sure it’s a trend that makes it safe and appropriate to bring people into this community, Heeke said. When the time is right, come back to it.
Arizona is scheduled to open the August 29 season against Hawaii. The NCAA Division I Council recently approved a six-week football practice plan. For the teams like Arizona playing in Week Zero, coaches can start working with players next Monday.