As of Tuesday morning, at least 40 Division I schools have had at least one student-athlete test positive for COVID-19.
Among the 40, Kansas State and Houston have suspended voluntary workouts entirely due to positive testing. Brand names like LSU, Clemson and Texas have all been transparent enough to announce, or at least confirm double-digit positive tests within their respective athletic departments, if not their football programs.
None of those 40 schools are named Utah, BYU or Utah State, because those three are opting not to disclose if and when an athlete tests positive.
When the NCAA announced on May 20 that it would start allowing voluntary student-athlete workouts beginning June 1, attention not only turned to when student-athletes would return to campuses, but how athletic departments would test for COVID-19 and keep them safe.
Once the Pac-12 said on May 26 that it would allow voluntary workouts beginning June 15, the University of Utah laid out its plan to reintroduce student-athletes on a voluntary basis. The six-page plan included a multi-tier schedule for when kids would return, testing protocols, and an illness policy, which includes quarantine procedures.
At the time, Utah’s COVID-19 student-athlete reentry plan was viewed as transparent, thorough, prudent, and answered most if not all questions people had.
Two weeks after the first wave of Utah student-athletes underwent testing before returning to athletic facilities on June 15, there are new questions, chiefly whether or not anyone has tested positive. There is no mandate from anyone, not the Pac-12, nor Salt Lake City or the state of Utah, that says the athletic department has to answer that question, so it is opting not to.
A Utah athletic department spokesman told The Salt Lake Tribune Monday morning that it will not be announcing, nor confirming positive tests of student-athletes.
That stance echoes that of BYU and Utah State. The Cougars, a football independent not bound by conference mandates, welcomed student-athletes back to Provo on June 1, the first allowable day by the NCAA. The Aggies announced on June 15 it would begin bringing players back that same day.
“All volunteer athletic workouts on campus require a screening process for each individual who enters our facilities,” A BYU athletic department spokesman said in a statement to The Tribune. “The results of those screenings are not publicly announced. We continue to work with university leaders and government officials to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and provide all possible safeguards for our student-athletes and athletics personnel.”
Among the three schools, Utah State was the most vague regarding its policy, or lack thereof, in announcing potential positive COVID-19 tests among student athletes.
“That is TBD. Maybe follow up with me in the next couple of weeks. Thanks,” an Aggies athletic department spokesman said in a text message to The Tribune.
With no indication or confirmation of positive tests at Utah, out-of-state returning athletes in football, basketball, gymnastics, volleyball and soccer were allowed to begin voluntary workouts on campus on Monday. New athletes in those sports can begin Sunday, with a reevaluation of the program’s first three phases scheduled for the following day.
While out-of-staters were able to begin this week, not everyone is taking advantage, at least from the men’s basketball side of things.
Timmy Allen remains in Arizona while keeping his name in the underclassmen pool for the NBA draft. The deadline to withdraw and maintain NCAA eligibility is Aug. 3, but Allen’s godfather, Ray Arvizu, told The Tribune on June 5 that he expects the junior forward to return to school.
Beyond Allen, redshirt freshman wing Brendan Wenzel (San Antonio) and redshirt junior guard Brooks King (Boise, Idaho) are both back in Salt Lake City, while others like Riley Battin (Oak Park, Calif.) and Alfonso Plummer (Fajardo, Puerto Rico) are unlikely to return until required summer activities commence on July 20.
The thinking behind not bringing all out-of-state Runnin’ Utes back for voluntary work stems from the fact that the required activities beginning July 20 will run right into the beginning of the fall semester on Aug. 24.
At that point, between school, preseason basketball activities, a Sept. 29 practice start date and a Nov. 10 start to the regular season, it will be a long time before anyone gets to go home, so the coaching staff would rather let players take advantage of being home now.