COLUMBIA — College athletics programs across the Southeastern Conference will move one step closer to their fall seasons starting this week.
The Mizzou Athletic Training Complex and South End Zone training facilities will open for voluntary workouts Monday for football and men’s and women’s basketball players, according to the athletic department. The cross country, soccer and volleyball teams, which also have fall seasons, will be allowed to return June 15, followed by gymnastics, swimming and diving, and wrestling teams June 22 and baseball, softball, track and field, golf and tennis July 6.
Missouri, which previously said it would only test players who showed symptoms of coronavirus or were coming to campus from hot spots, will now test everybody, as first reported by The Athletic on Wednesday. The Associated Press has reported tests cost $125 each.
For the football team, which has by far the largest roster of all of Missouri’s athletic programs, the return to organized team activities will follow CDC and Boone County guidelines and in consultation with MU Health:
All new and returning players were tested for COVID-19 Thursday and Friday.
Freshmen, who moved into their student housing starting Friday, will work out in a group or groups to start
Workouts will be done in groups of 20, with a minimum of 6 feet of distance between everyone in the group.
Players will also distance themselves in the locker room and other indoor spaces.
Temperature and symptom checks will be done daily as players arrive to the facility.
The program also has written out plans and procedures for what to do if a player shows symptoms or tests positive.
“I want to make it clear I’m not a doctor, nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn last night,” head coach Eliah Drinkwitz said Thursday. “So, you know, I’m a football coach, and I always defer to, one, MU Health, and then, two, our administration and what our response, an appropriate response, will be with COVID-19. With that being said, I’ve worked a lot in conjunction with, on our re-population plan, with Tim Hickman and our trainer Owen Stanley, that’s worked with, you know, we have immunologists, we have epidemiologists, we have doctors we have all kinds of people that are looking out for the best interests of our student-athletes.”
Defensive lineman Chris Turner said the team started receiving screenings and information from trainers and medical staff Thursday detailing the protocols for safely entering, using, and leaving the facilities.
“Coach Drinkwitz, since Day 1, before we even went home, prior to the meeting, he talked about it (coronavirus),” linebacker Nick Bolton said Thursday. “He’s been very honest about his opinions on it. Our safety, as you heard right before I got on the call, is very detailed and thought-out of the plans of what we’re going to do if somebody were to get it, or somebody in our facility were to get it. And so I personally feel safe, coming back, I feel like it’s the safest place for me to be able to to work out still, get ready for the fall, but also in a safe environment where we’re not necessarily worried about getting sick.”
Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk has said the university would honor the scholarships of players who chose not to participate in team activities due to health concerns. When asked whether any football players would be sitting out, Drinkwitz said NCAA rules prohibited him from asking one of his players the question or from disclosing such information.
As of Friday afternoon, Boone County had reported 177 total cases of COVID-19, 40 of which are active. Boone County has recorded two deaths as a result of coronavirus and nine total hospitalizations, though no one is currently hospitalized. The state of Missouri has recorded 14,253 cases and 799 deaths.
“We have a great plan in place. I feel great about it,” Drinkwitz said. “Obviously, you know, this is an unknown, and there’s going to be different things that come up, and we’ve tried to plan for every contingency. But whatever happens, we will work through it. And the best thing we’ve got going for us is we’ve got MU Heath 800 yards away, run by Jonathan Curtright, who just does an outstanding job as the CEO and has some of the best doctors in the world. So feel very safe and strong, and I feel like it’s the best place for all of our players, if they’re here, if something should happen.”
Drinkwitz said he did not know when college football would take the next step toward having the regular season scheduled to start in September. The SEC, NCAA and Football Oversight Committee all need to be in unison to determine when practices or other on-field activities can resume.
“We didn’t know we would come back June 8 until May 22, so I don’t know honestly, but no we do not know yet,” he said. “I know that there’s discussions at all three different levels, but there’s not been a consensus decision, nor has there been really a — there’s not been a balloon raised either to try to figure out which one we would all be.
“We’re in voluntary (workouts) right now. I think we’re all, everybody’s in kind of — and I’m speaking out of turn here, and I maybe shouldn’t say this, I don’t want to put words in people’s mouth, but I think it’s kind of a, ‘Let’s see how the reintroduction goes, and then we’ll figure out from there where we’re at.'”
The Tigers picked up their 11th commitment of the 2021 class, and the second defensive back from the state of Florida, when Zxaequan Reeves announced his decision on social media Friday morning.
Reeves, from Cocoa High School in Cocoa, Fla., is listed by 247sports as a 3-star recruit, and held Power 5 offers from Pittsburgh, Virginia and Washington State.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, his commitment is the fourth in a row for Missouri’s defensive backfield. Drinkwitz and company started the class with five in-state recruits, but the last four — Darius Jackson from Red Oak, Texas, Davion Sistrunk from nearby Melbourne, Fla., and Daylan Carnell, from Indianapolis — have all been defensive backs from out of state.
Reeves had 12 solo and 15 assisted tackles in 10 games as a junior for the Cocoa Tigers, who went 8-4 last season. He returned his one interception on the season 52 yards, though not for a touchdown, and defended four other passes.
Missouri’s 2021 class is rated No. 32 and No. 7 in the SEC by 247sports, and No. 36 and No. 8 in the SEC by Rivals.