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BREAKING: Athletics begins phased return to campus, football and basketball teams to start voluntary workouts this month

Tangible steps toward a return to Northwestern sports.

Northwestern Athletics

It’s Northwestern’s turn to revive athletics.

The athletic department announced a phased return to campus Thursday, saying limited voluntary workouts for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball are scheduled to begin June 22.

According a press release from the athletic department, sports medicine and training staff as well as student-athletes with rehabilitation needs returned to campus for the first week of June. The next batch of Wildcats will return to Evanston next week.

When student-athletes return, they’ll undergo a full physical and COVID-19 testing. The release says “continuing health assessments” will happen daily throughout the summer, but it does not explicitly mention virus testing as part of that or what those health assessments will include beyond the below quote.

“All student-athletes will be screened before entering facilities with a wellness check and temperature scan with a no-touch thermometer,” the release said. “In the clinic and all workout settings, both social distancing [and] personal protective equipment guidelines will be rigidly enforced.”

It is unclear what the size is to which groups will be limited.

The plan is stricter than that of other schools, like some in the SEC, which said they will only test players who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Student-athletes at SEC schools began to return to campus for voluntary activities campuses June 8. Eight Alabama football players, all asymptomatic, have tested positive for the virus. Five tested positive while working out independently, and three tested positive since the team resumed voluntary workouts this week.

The Big Ten did not issue league-wide policy on athletes returning to campus, instead deferring to each individual school. Most schools in the conferences have begun allowing players to return. Some student-athletes at Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State and Penn State returned Monday, while Maryland and Michigan State are set to follow suit on June 15.

Operations within Walter Athletics Center will be reimagined for the time being. Players and staff will access the facility through one entrance, and locker rooms and lounges are closed. Meals will be available via individual grab-and-go packages.

And since everyone was concerned, biometric access readers (fingerprint readers) – arguably the coolest feature of the building — will be disabled. Wildcard access returns to glory.

The transition from workouts to practices and then a season is likely to be significant, but the returning of players to campus is the critical first step in making any season, especially football, possible.