When Wake Forest begins the process of bringing student-athletes back to campus, it’ll do so in three phases, Athletics Director John Currie says.
No official date has been set for Wake Forest’s student-athletes to return to campus for voluntary workouts — as the NCAA has ruled they can starting this month — but things are headed in that direction, Currie said during a video conference with Coach Dave Clawson today.
“These guys want to come back, they’re dying to come back. And in some cases they need to come back,” Clawson said. “A lot of our players come from backgrounds that their home environment, in terms of eating, safety, even preventing them getting COVID, they’re much better off at Wake Forest than they are where they live.
“But we don’t want any of these players to feel like they have to come back.”
Wake Forest was on spring break, its football program having completing five of 15 scheduled spring practices, when the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the eventual cancellation of all spring sports. The NCAA ruled that programs could begin voluntary workouts today, and in the past two weeks ACC schools have one-by-one announced plans to bring student-athletes back to campuses.
Wake Forest is not at that point, but Currie and Clawson made it clear that the priority is setting up health and safety standards for athletes’ return and a resumption of workouts.
“Also during this time of COVID, there’s this sense of isolation. That is mentally challenging for our players,” Clawson said. “Not just do we worry about their physical health in terms of their diet and working out and getting COVID, but we worry about their mental health.
“And for an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old to be in isolation this long isn’t healthy for them mentally. We’re trying to manage all of those things, but at the same time bring them back in a safe and healthy way because we have to do that, that’s our responsibility as well.”
In the first phase of athletes' return, Currie said, a group of about 15 who have undergone significant surgeries in the past year will return so that they can use the rehabilitation facilities.
The second step will be welcoming onto campus a group of athletes already in Winston-Salem who are unable to use the athletic facilities at this time.
And then Currie laid out the discussion — again, not yet finalized — of what will happen with the third phase of returning athletes to campus.
“As we get around the first of July, we have several protocols … starting with our football program, that include screening, isolation, quarantine, some testing, to resume activities,” Currie said. “For example, we get to that point, we would have student-athletes coming into isolation for a period of time, and then initially in football for instance, they would be working out in very small groups, families, if you will.
“So that if a student develops symptoms, the symptom spread is isolated to a small group. And so we go through progressions to fully resume activities.”
Wake Forest is planning to make an announcement on the status of the fall semester as early as June 10.
Currie was sure to clarify his position is not to ultimately make the decision of whether students return to campus for the fall semester, but he said the school is “tracking” in that being the case.
“I’m the athletic director not the president, so I don’t want to speak for the president," Currie said. "But I can assure you that Wake Forest is tracking in the right direction, and there’s a really strong team of people working to ensure that we can have students back in Winston-Salem and we’re all looking forward to that, and I would just ask for your patience.
“One of the things Wake Forest has been really intent on, which has been correct, I believe, is when we make announcements, let’s make announcements where we’ve got facts to back it up.”