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Oklahoma State Football is Back in Stillwater, What Now?

Back at it!

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Oklahoma State football returned to a new normal this week as staff and players began pouring into Boone Pickens Stadium. Players technically cannot start working out again until June 15, but as far as steps go toward some semblance of a season, this is a big one.

As for what comes next, it gets a little bit more complicated. Not just for Oklahoma State but around the country for every team and every program.

OSU’s task force for re-entry — which includes medical experts and leaders from campus and the athletic department — has created the following multi-step path for OSU’s athletics program (and specifically its football team) to walk in the days, weeks and months ahead.

1. Now: Student-athletes will be tested for COVID-19 and then go through standard check-in paperwork, procedures and quarantine in order to be cleared in advance of June 15 when voluntary workouts begin in Stillwater.

2. Working out: Starting on June 15, football student-athletes will be permitted to access campus athletic facilities and support personnel for voluntary conditioning and training exercises. This is in accordance with Big 12 rules.

3. Mask protocol: Masks will not be required in the football facilities as long as social distancing and proper hygiene guidelines are followed.  However, masks will be available and their use encouraged.

4. Testing: Following the initial test for COVID-19, repeat COVID-19 tests and additional antibody testing will follow as determined by medical professionals as well as any directives given by Big 12 and/or NCAA officials.

5. Who can be in BPS: Athletic training staff wearing personal protective equipment will perform daily temperature checks and complete a symptom checklist monitoring form for all entrants to the west end zone. This testing and screening will include spacing guidelines, and hand sanitization products will be available and emphasized at the designated entry point to the west end zone. If you don’t complete the entry protocol, you can’t enter.

6. Catching the virus: If a student-athlete, coach or support staff member tests positive for COVID-19, they will enter the quarantine protocol per medical, local and state health department and university guidelines and will begin to receive the appropriate monitoring and treatment from the team physician, athletic training staff and any other medical consultants. Appropriate contact tracing as per local and state health department and university guidelines will begin … with the student-athlete’s workout group.

7. Facility sanitization: The facilities director will coordinate a cleaning and maintenance schedule for the locker room, weight room, training room, meeting rooms and other areas occupied by student-athletes and staff. Cleaning schedules will follow recommended CDC guidelines and best practices to include disinfecting weight rooms, locker rooms, meeting rooms and other facilities between all training sessions or meetings. Cleaning and sanitizing will be done in all spaces after use by each team.

8. Social distancing: During all stages and across all spaces, OSU will comply with local or state mandated limits on gathering size and occupancy limits. Areas that are congested will be identified and alleviated by queuing, and physical barriers will be used where necessary.

9. Food: The training table area will not be utilized as a dine-in option. Meals during this time will be structured and organized through Cowboy Dining using a grab-and-go method at the west end zone facility. 

10. Housing: All on-campus student-athletes will be housed in apartment-style housing, allowing for each student-athlete to have a separate bedroom and greatly minimize shared bathroom facilities, kitchen and common space.

Upon arriving on campus, student-athletes will be strongly discouraged from interacting with student-athletes outside their workout group and encouraged to keep group sizes small when in facilities outside the west end zone, such as in housing areas. Student-athletes will be discouraged from traveling away from campus once they have arrived and have been screened and tested.

So there are 10 of the ways OSU is trying to facilitate life and football in a COVID-19 world. It’s a good, thorough plan that [looks around, leans in and whispers] could actually work, which means we could be talking safeties and tackles instead of antibodies and cleaning solutions come September.

OSU has been good on this, many other schools have done the same. It’s to be expected. There’s a lot at stake and a lot to lose. An encouraging first step in (hopefully!) a long line of them on the march to that OSU-OSU tilt on Week 1.

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