By Jeremy Rubin
Beginning today, Stanford football student-athletes are now able to return to the Farm. While voluntary training for all sports has been underway since June 17, no other entire team has been welcomed back to campus yet due to COVID-19 concerns.
The football team will adhere to a strict return-to-play plan designed to protect and support the health of athletes, coaches and community amidst the ongoing pandemic. This plan was formulated with the School of Medicine and Stanford Health Care and other health professionals. It follows all guidelines put in place by Santa Clara County, NCAA, Pac-12 COVID-19 Advisory Committee, Santa Clara County public health officials and University leaders.
The team’s plan focuses on COVID-19 testing, screening, social-distancing and use of personal protective equipment. Players will have daily temperature checks and report their current health status. Should a player test positive, the sports medicine team has procedures in place for proper isolation and quarantine based on the CDC’s current guidelines.
Any players who decide to not partake in athletics due to the COVID-19 pandemic will not face any penalties nor risk a loss of scholarship. Earlier this month, players at fellow Pac-12 school, UCLA, voiced concern about their program’s lack of precautions, but no Stanford player has made a complaint so far.
Players are currently housed off-campus in a hotel for the time being and have been sorted into sub-groups for training, housing and other day-to-day activities. By limiting who the players come in contact with, like households that are quarantined together, this will presumably limit the transmission of disease.
Players will be screened upon arrival, but travel to campus in itself poses an inherent risk. The football team has players returning from all corners of the U.S., and many players have no choice but to return on airplanes —which can be dangerous due to the close quarters and recirculated air.
On the Farm, only aquatic and outdoor facilities are open for returning athletes. The athletic training rooms and sports medicine clinic are available only by appointment. Additional on-campus safety measures include social distancing, wearing face coverings, frequently washing hands and using hand sanitizer and cleaning equipment in-between uses.
Sports medicine and athletic training personnel will provide telemedicine visits and remote care, as well.
Following NCAA Division I Council’s preseason model, Stanford may begin conducting athletically-related activities on July 13. The return of the football to campus lines up exactly two weeks before that start date.
Despite the precautions, the threat of COVID-19 still looms, and many outbreaks have already been reported amongst college teams — including at preseason, No. 1 Clemson.
Kickoff for Stanford’s first game is still currently scheduled for Sep. 5.
Cybele Zhang contributed reporting.