LSU intends for student-athletes to return to campus June 1 when the Southeastern Conference may lift its suspension of activities, but athletic director Scott Woodward said the athletic department can adjust if plans change.
“I see sometime in June our student-athletes getting back to campus,” Woodward said.
Student-athletes went home the rest of the spring semester, but as states enter the initial phases of reopening, LSU has developed protocols and guidelines for when its players can return to campus.
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Woodward spoke Wednesday evening during an online Tiger Athletic Foundation Coaches Caravan, a virtual substitute for an annual event. He was joined by coach Ed Orgeron, offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, running backs coach Kevin Faulk, senior associate athletic director Shelly Mullenix and TAF president Rick Perry.
“We have top concern for our student-athletes,” Woodward said. “We're making sure that is paramount, that we do these things we can control because that's one thing in our hands that we can help and we can do better.”
LSU’s assistant football coaches returned to the facilities last Monday, marking the first part of a three-pronged approach to regaining some form of normalcy within the athletic department.
Woodward said LSU feels ready for the second phase of its plan: bringing student-athletes back to campus.
Leave it to the ever-optimistic Ed Orgeron to find the positives in the middle of a pandemic.
The last two months, players exercised on their own while taking online classes. LSU installed its offensive and defensive systems through virtual calls, and it created a task force to keep players focused on academics.
“We've done everything we can except hands-on coaching with our guys,” Orgeron said.
Once student-athletes can return to LSU, they will go through a system developed by Mullenix, which includes testing and temperature readings, to ensure their health. Then LSU will register them for summer classes and players will begin working out with strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt.
Woodward believes LSU can keep its student-athletes healthier than they are now living at home by self-quarantining them, controlling their exposure to other people, regulating their meals and cleaning the weight rooms on a regular basis.
“We are preparing for a June 1 return, even though we don't know that,” Woodward said. “When that prohibition comes up, which hopefully won't be extended, but if it is, we'll be ready for that, too.”
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As for the football season itself, LSU plans to play its full regular season as scheduled beginning Labor Day weekend.
However, Woodward knows the virus can force an alteration of those plans in the coming months, and he doesn’t yet have an answer for if fans will be allowed into the stadiums.
“This is the one we have no idea about,” Woodward said. “When are we going to get butts in the seats? I don't know the answer to that. I think probably middle of the summer sometime we're going to have to decide what we want to do.”
But with coaches back in the facility and student-athletes possibly on campus again in a few weeks, LSU feels closer to a return to normalcy than it did two months ago.
"I see the light at the end of the tunnel," Orgeron said. "Hopefully we're about to move forward in the next couple of weeks."