LSU hoping to have student-athletes back on campus in June

The state of Louisiana, in effect, is coming out of house arrest Friday.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has re-hung a “sorta kinda open for business” sign announcing no one is necessarily no longer a coronavirus pandemic home prisoner.

Basically, adhere to social distancing and proceed at your own risk.

The wheels have already been turning – they’ve really never quit – in the LSU athletic department trying to get student-athletes (especially football players) back on campus after being scattered at home for the last two months.

“I think we can take care of them than even in a better way than they are at home, exposing them to less people, self-quarantining, making sure food is done together, and making sure their weight rooms are clean and immaculate,” LSU athletics director Scott Woodward said in Wednesday night’s TAF Tigers’ coaches virtual tour via a Zoom videoconference on Facebook.

Shelly Mullenix, LSU’s senior associate athletic director of health and wellness, agreed.

“My concern if these guys are home and the only place they can go is the hospital ER, that’s the last place I want to send anybody,” Mullenix said. “We can offer that service here.”

Woodward called LSU’s three-pronged plan to re-start athleticsthe model of what the SEC and the nation should be doing.”

The first phase was getting the entire football staff back to work in the football complex about 10 days ago, which Tigers’ head coach Ed Orgeron said made him “a happy guy because I’ve been by myself for eight weeks.”

“Shelly implemented strict guidelines on what and how we practice being around folks in our offices – masks with proper social distancing, how we wash our hands and do all the things that we need to do,” Woodward said. “We led the league in protocol of how to do that.”

The next phase is getting the athletes back on campus. Since the SEC has banned all use of athletic facilities until May 31, a decision which could be re-visited and the ban being extended, Woodward said he’s shooting for a June 1 date to have the athletes back under one roof.

“I see sometime in June our student-athletes getting back to campus,” Woodward said.

The final phase is allowing fans back in the stands, which Woodward has no idea when it will happen.

“Probably in the middle of the summer we’re going to zig or zag and decide what we want to do,” Woodward said. “But as Dr. (Anthony) Fauci (director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) said, `The virus controls the timeline, we don’t.’

“We’re going to have to do this is a proper and smart way. Dan Gaston, the head of our facilities, and all the members of our senior staff, are working tirelessly to look at all the scenarios of how we can get folks back in the stands in a safe and proper fashion.”

Woodward said the SEC athletic directors talk with each other and with league commissioner Greg Sankey two to three times weekly.

“We are planning and doing everything we can in our control like we’re playing (the football season opener) Labor Day weekend,” Woodward said. “Commissioner Sankey is doing that.

“Things could change. There could be a million scenarios where different things could happen. But rest assured, our effort is to play football and to play 12 games this season and get it going.”

Orgeron and his staff, even in the eight weeks they weren’t together, have been in constant contact with the players. He said he created a task force for someone to check on 10 players each daily, making sure they are taking care of their academics, their health and staying in shape.

“I saw a lot of guys that looked good and in shape,” said Orgeron, adding starting quarterback Myles Brennan has raised his weight to 218 pounds. “I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, we can move forward the next couple of weeks.”

Orgeron added the Tigers’ offensive and defensive coaches have continued to communicate with players and install the offensive and defensive systems.

“We kept our installation throughout the spring,” Orgeron said. “Now, we’re re-installing our same install for the third time. They’ll hear it in camp for the fourth time. We’ve done everything we can but hands-on coaching. I think it’s going to pay off when we get back and hopefully we can get back soon.”

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Ron Higgins

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