Utes happy with voluntary workout plan, eager to get back at it on June 15

Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham this week expressed gratitude for what has been viewed as an extensive layout for the restart plan for football and other sports. Athletic department and medical officials rolled the plan out publicly for the first time on May 28.

“Incredible job by our administration, primarily Mark Harlan, our AD, getting the procedures and protocols in place,” Whittingham said. “Our medical staff here is obviously the driving force, making sure we’re doing things the right way. There’s no stone left unturned. They really did lay it all out, but that’s not to say something unforeseen can’t happen, but I think it’s first of all, great to be able to get our guys back on campus in phases. It’s been a great job by the administration outlining this plan and outlining the return to campus. Hopefully, it all goes smoothly.”

Beginning June 15, in-state, returning student-athletes from the football, men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics, volleyball, and men’s and women’s soccer teams will be allowed to return to campus for voluntary work. Out-of-state returning student-athletes in those sports can return June 22, while all new athletes in those sports can arrive on June 28.

According to the university’s plan, there will be a reevaluation of the first three phases on June 29 to determine the next steps. Assuming an all-clear is given after the first three phases, more student-athlete arrivals will return beginning July 13.

“There have been a few parents that have raised a little bit of concern, but I think they’re all in a good place now and onboard,” Whittingham said. “We’re moving ahead, but of course, this is voluntary. Nobody is being forced to come back. Right now, to the best of knowledge, we have everybody scheduled to be back at their prescribed time and their parents are on board.”

As of Friday, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon are the only Pac-12 to announce restart plans. All five are set for a June 15 start after the NCAA announced on May 20 that voluntary workouts could begin as early as June 1. The Pac-12 announced May 26 that it would allow its members to begin bringing back student-athletes on June 1.

The five schools ready to go mostly reside in counties and states with less-stringent social-distancing and stay-at-home orders. The other seven, but specifically the four schools from California, have been a part of some of the more aggressive COVID-19 protocols across the country.

Either way, voluntary workouts across the country have been viewed as a significant step toward getting the 2020 season played, potentially with an on-time start.

“You could call it a breakthrough of sorts in terms of getting back to some sense of normalcy, we’re hoping for the best,” Whittingham said. “An ideal scenario is starting football on time with fans in the stands and all that. I don’t know how realistic it is to say everything will be status quo. I’m sure there will be some differences and some things we’re not used to, but hopefully we’ll be able to be as close to normal as possible.”