HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - University of Southern Mississippi football players are expected to begin voluntary workouts Monday.
USM athletic director Jeremy McClain said Friday that the first on-campus workouts since the bloom of the coronavirus pandemic reached Hattiesburg in March were about to get underway.
“The NCAA obviously gave us the green light, so we’re going to begin,” McClain said during a telephone interview Friday afternoon. “It’s not all our student-athletes. We’re focused on football right now, go get them back and working at our facility.
“Part of it was getting the green light from the NCAA, but you’ve also got gyms opening up across the state and across the region, and we just feel like it’s better for them (student-athletes) to be here at our own facility as opposed to their old high school or a gym in their community.”
McClain said the workouts initially would be limited to weightlifting and conditioning.
“Obviously, we’ll be doing that with some pretty strict social-distancing measures and safety measures in place,” he said. “We won't have more than 15 people at a time in our facility working out, those kinds of things.
“We’ll monitor everything closely. This is all voluntary, but we’ll be giving them a list of instructions, about being safe. They will have some time on their own to interact with each other, but we will be advising them to stay safe.”
The threat of the virus and its potentially deadly impact led to, among other things, first the postponements, then the cancellations of sporting events at all levels, ranging from high school to professional.
USM students saw spring break extended a week before on-campus classes were cancelled and the spring semester was completed on-line.
USM’s summer classes also will be conducted on-line, but USM is planning to welcome students back for a truncated fall semester that would start a week early, do away with the traditional fall break and wrap up by the end of November, including exams.
McClain said his department is planning for a full-schedule football season, though contingency plans have been drawn depending on the public health concerns in three months' time.
“From the standpoint of ‘Here’s where we are, here’s what the next month looks like,’ it's clearing up a little but, two, three months from now, so much can happen.
”What I'm planning on is things going as normal, so to speak, and we’ll adjust and plan for other scenarios, but that’s where our focus kind of is right now, planning on starting the season on time.
“Things may change, but that’s where our focus is.”