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ASU athletics prepared for thorough process of starting voluntary workouts

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

Arizona State will join the Pac-12 in beginning voluntary workouts on Monday, understandably under a strict set of guidelines in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ahead of that, the school presented information and took questions from the media on the process Friday.

The start will be 27 football players in three groups of nine on Monday, which deputy athletics director Jean Boyd labeled as phase one of the return for the football program specifically.

A group will enter the facility and will be treating the arrival as if they are walking in a straight line. That’s in order to avoid them reaching any other areas of the building they don’t need to be in.

That “thorough” process, as Boyd called it, includes players wearing some type of face covering at all times and an “entire cleansing and sanitation protocol that has to be undertaken “in-between groups.”

Those 27 have already taken coronavirus tests and will have daily health screenings. The school would not share if it has had any positive results.

The phases for football will increase each Monday up to the third on June 29. At some point, 30-50 other athletes from all sports (not just football) will be integrated into the voluntary workouts as well.

This, of course, is all on a timeline that could easily be altered, as the news Friday of the University of Houston halting all workouts after six players tested positive showed.

All schools have different plans for the players’ safety in place, which is where things can get complicated.

As far as preparing for alterations, you could almost hear the exhaustion from Boyd and associate vice president of ASU health services Aaron Krasnow in terms of being ready for that.

“That work has been done very thoroughly,” Boyd said.

For the past two months, Boyd has been in on Pac-12 meetings twice a week that figure out what Boyd described as “infinite contingency plans.”

From teams not being able to play because of an internal outbreak to other potential hurdles, they are as prepared as they can be.

“Every variation of those types of questions have been evaluated, discussed and been modeled and submitted to the NCAA,” Boyd said.

Boyd and Krasnow are in daily communication on what Boyd needs to know on the virus and what Krasnow needs to know on the conference plans, as Krasnow noted that everything is changing on it consistently. The two have a day-to-day evaluation process.

“All of us are working constantly on new inputs, new evidence, science changes,” Krasnow said. “We learn things from how others are doing things too.

“We find ourselves choosing the best path based on the best available information, and then tomorrow comes and we evaluate it. And then the next day comes and we evaluate it.”

The university remains flexible with its plan because of the expectation for change.

One of those changes has been a spike in cases locally, with the percentage of positive cases in Arizona steadily climbing the last two weeks after the number had been stagnating and even declining.

Krasnow called the current trend “concerning” but they did not have to make tweaks because of it.

“That’s part of our daily conversations with all of those parties,” he said. “Right now we’re still on track. If anything changes, we’ll adjust in that regard.”

The university’s own work to secure the proper testing for the student body has benefitted the athletics department. Krasnow wouldn’t say how many tests they have but noted that it’s “plenty” and that they get results back in less than 48 hours, above the average 5-7 day timeline across the country.

But even with the overwhelmingly extensive amount of work the school has done in order to be in the spot they are in to potentially start playing football and getting other sports back, they are more than willing to admit the unknowns over how the next few months go.

“I’m hopeful for a season in some capacity,” vice president of athletics Ray Anderson said.

“At this point with two months to go, quite frankly, no one knows. We’re hopeful, but we don’t know. We’re just trying to get there.”

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