As news regarding the 2020 sports season continues to break around the nation, Texas A&M is still waiting for answers.
The SEC is rumored to be close to an announcement regarding a move to a conference-only schedule, Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger reported Wednesday afternoon.
NEWS: The #SEC is moving closer to a conference-only 10-game schedule, sources tell @SINow.ADs agreed on the matter Wednesday and presidents are expected to meet Thursday, though they may delay a decision until next week.This is a fluid situation. https://t.co/er591whOF0— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) July 29, 2020
The 14 SEC athletic directors met in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 13 to discuss this fall and said a decision would be made by the end of the month. A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork said in an appearance on Studio 12 on Wednesday the athletic directors have had regular contact since then, with meetings on Tuesday, Wednesday and this upcoming Friday.
Bjork said a final decision on sports this fall should not be expected this week.
“I describe it as a check-in point for where we are,” Bjork said. “There might be decisions, there might be, ‘Hey, we’re still at the yellow light. We’re not at the green light and we’re not at the red light.’ There’s just a lot of things that are, I think and believe, coming together where we can make decisions, but perhaps they’re intermediate steps along the way.”
Bjork said A&M has been focused on testing student-athletes frequently in an effort to prevent an outbreak of positive COVID-19 cases within the athletic department.
“That’s how we’ve approached all this is let’s be proactive, let’s have frequent testing,” Bjork said. “Right now as we sit here on July 29, we have a limited number of active cases across all of our student-athletes.”
Though they have been acting with caution when it comes to workouts and training thus far, Bjork said the athletic department recognizes they can’t completely prevent an increase in positive cases.
“We expect more positive cases,” Bjork said. “When more student-athletes return, when we start practicing and competing, we can’t just assume we’re not going to have any cases. That’s why we have a plan. We anticipate that there will be more positive cases. We’ve had positive cases, we acknowledge that.”
The plan, as outlined by the Return to Activity guidelines released by the athletic department in June, includes required facial coverings, daily screenings, increased cleaning in the weight rooms, and scheduled appointments for training to ensure social distancing requirements are met.
When the SEC announced on May 22 that student-athletes could return to campus for voluntary …
Bjork said prior to the start of mandatory activity for the football team on July 13, A&M executed another round of testing for the athletes to ensure a clean start to training.
“Based on what we know about learning from our colleagues around the country, we believe our testing is as robust and as frequent as anybody has in the country if not more,” Bjork said. “We had a few positives from that batch of testing, but we have less quarantined folks, meaning there wasn’t as much social activity, so I think the student-athletes are learning.”
Bjork said A&M and the SEC are learning from the MLB’s actions over the past few weeks as it has executed the return of its sport and dealt with the Miami Marlins presenting over 15 positive cases of COVID-19.
The key to the return of college athletics this fall is to remain flexible, Bjork said.
“To me, what’s going to happen in college sports is we may say we’re playing 12 games or we’re playing 10 games, whatever the number ends up being. But you may only get through 10 of those games, maybe not because of us, but because of our opponent. Or maybe because of us and our opponent has to sit idle,” Bjork said.
He said the important thing to remember when making those decisions is to rely on the facts rather than fear.
“If you operate out of fear, you get paralyzed and then you don’t make any decisions,” Bjork said.
If sports do return to Aggieland this fall, Bjork said A&M is planning on taking several precautionary actions, including requiring facial coverings for all fans and limiting attendance to 50 percent of stadium capacity. For Kyle Field, this would allow approximately 50,000 fans to attend football games.
Amid the chaos and uncertainty the pandemic has created, Bjork said he has a mantra that keeps his spirits up during this time: “Stay positive, test negative.”
“That’s the attitude we have to have,” Bjork said. “There’s headwinds, there’s challenges, there’s roadblocks, there’s uncertainty. We don’t know all the things that might come our way over the next couple weeks or months, but we have to keep believing and we have to use that positive approach because it’s real easy to be paralyzed by the fear.”