PHOENIX – Arizona State, determined not to suffer a similar fate as the University of Houston, is testing all its athletes for COVID-19 as part of the protocol for them to return to campus.
Members of ASU’s athletic administration detailed plans for resuming voluntary workouts in a Zoom call with news media on Friday. Athletes began returning to campus Monday.
“Executing our plan, we think has been very diligently put together,” Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson said. “If there is a way to be successful with it, it will get done at ASU. I certainly hope others are successful as we are.”
The University of Houston failed to test each student-athlete returning to campus, and then had to suspend all voluntary workouts after six players tested positive for COVID-19.
A shortage of tests does not concern ASU.
“We’re in a fortunate scenario where we have plenty of tests,” said Aaron Krasnow, associate vice president of health services. “We have enough for our athletes and for the general student population. If I were the least bit concerned about that, this plan would not be this plan.”
On Monday, 27 members of the Sun Devil football team returned to campus to begin voluntary workouts, including starting quarterback Jayden Daniels. From there, 30 to 40 will be invited to return based on proximity to campus and the start time for the position they play.
A quarantine protocol is in place for athletes returning to campus. Those who have traveled domestically will be quarantined seven days; international travelers will be quarantined 14 days.
Upon returning, athletes must be cleared after physicals that include COVID-19 testing, at which point they are placed into cohorts of nine. Should a positive test emerge, that case would be isolated and supported consistent with Maricopa County Department of Health Services guidance.
“It’s a great plan, but it is flexible,” said Dr. Shanyn Lancaster, head team physician and chief of sports medicine. “We are actually anticipating that there are going to be changes along the way. We have kind of learned along the way with this pandemic and with COVID-19 that we just need to be a little more nimble.”
The athletes will be required to wear masks during workouts and while in school facilities. This falls in line with ASU President Michael Crow requirement that students, employees and visitors wear masks while on campus.
“To say that no one is concerned or has a little anxiety about what this all will look like would be a bit disingenuous,” said Jean Boyd, deputy athletics director. “But by and large, people are excited.”
Although other conferences and universities have been adamant about playing football this fall, Anderson stressed he would follow advice from health and medical experts.
“The Pac-12 and our institutions will do what we believe is in the best interest of our health and safety of our athletes,” he said. “If another conference decides to go ahead and play at all costs, that would be on them. We will play as our medical and health experts and the fluidity of the situation dictates. We all want to play football. It’s important to us financially, everyone knows that. But we aren’t going to play football in the Pac-12 and certainly not at ASU at any cost.
“We will make our own determination with our conference and institution by institution.”