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Rebel student-athletes may begin to return to campus Monday

The university announced, “Phase 1 of Return to Play Plan,” beginning with protocol for athletes returning for voluntary workouts. 

UNLV Announce Firing Of Men’s Basketball Coach Marvin Menzies Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

On Friday, UNLV athletics announced that student-athletes from several sports will be allowed back on campus on Monday to begin voluntary workouts.

Athletes from the football, women’s soccer, and volleyball programs can start to return to campus on Monday, June 8. And beginning one week later, Monday, June 15, men’s and women’s basketball, cross country, and men’s soccer athletes can begin to return.

“We are encouraged by this first important step,” said UNLV Director of Athletics Desiree Reed-Francois in a statement. “We have been working daily under the guidelines of our state, our campus and with the expertise from our Head Team Physician, Medical Director and Associate Professor at the UNLV School of Medicine Dr. Wade Gaal, and Brian Labus, Assistant Professor at the UNLV School of Public Health, who serves on the UNLV COVID-19 Management Team as well as the Governor’s COVID-19 Medical Advisory Team. We have been thoughtful and methodical in defining our process in this phased-in approach.

The school worked with the state of Nevada, the Southern Nevada Health District, the UNLV COVID-19 Management Team, the Mountain West, and the NCAA, to come up with those guidelines to protect the athletes as they return to campus. This is the first announcement from the school in regard to allowing athletes to return to campus since the COVID-19 pandemic halted the remainder of the 2019-2020 athletic season.

“We are appreciative of the University’s COVID Management Team for their leadership and guidance throughout this process,” Reed-Francois continued. “Taking into account the best practices and industry standards of national and world sporting organizations with the health and safety of student-athletes and staff being our number one priority and at the forefront of our decision making, our Recovery Task Force evaluated input at multiple levels. The primary focus was to map out a return to campus in a way that provides a safe and healthy environment for our student-athletes and mitigates risk, while preserving our mission.”

Here are the guidelines the school will implement for the players returning to campus:

  • All student-athletes must self-quarantine for 14 days prior to any voluntary workouts.
  • All student-athletes, performance staff and coaches will undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing.
  • Student-athletes will be required to complete daily symptom screening and temperature checks upon entering a facility for a workout. A strict ingress/egress protocol has been established.
  • All social distancing and cleanliness protocols must be strictly adhered.
  • All student-athletes will be provided with cloth facial coverings and will be required to wear them at all times, following social distancing protocols, with the only exceptions during workouts.
  • All newcomers must complete high school graduation requirements and full physicals prior to workouts.
  • All student-athletes and staff must complete mandatory protocol training.
  • Limited laundry services will be provided in a systematic manner, but locker rooms will remain closed until further notice.
  • Robust and enhanced sanitation procedures have been put in place.
  • All other dates for the return of other sports are to be determined.

“The goal of the first phase of Return to Play is to allow our student-athletes to begin workouts, while mitigating the risk that comes with the slow resumption of campus activities,” Labus said. “By limiting the number of people in our facilities, minimizing contact between them, and ensuring that we meet the highest standards of cleaning and sanitation, our student-athletes can safely begin to prepare for their upcoming seasons. We will continue to update our approach to match current best practices in order to provide the safest environment possible for our student-athletes as they return to campus.”

UNLV’s 2020 fall semester is set to begin on August 24. In a statement to students, acting President Marta Meana announced that the university’s goal is to have a mix of 50/50 for online and in-person courses, and lecture classes of 75 or more will be online. By doing that, they can limit the number of students on campus and not have crowded classrooms.

UNLV football is set to host California on August 29 in Allegiant Stadium to begin the football season. Last year, before UNLV football’s first game against Southern Utah, other UNLV athletic programs, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, and cross country, all held events before the first football game, and some had events before school even started. The 2020-2021 schedule for men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, and cross country have not been released.

Last month, Wyoming announced that student athletes from football, and men’s and women’s basketball could return June 1. It was also announced last month that California State Universities would primarily have online courses this fall, which impact schools such as Fresno State, San Diego State, and San Jose State.

The situation is very fluid, and plans could change at any time. There is still no word from the NCAA or the Mountain West when the various fall sports will begin their seasons.