On Saturday, Rutgers football formally announced it will resume workouts on campus beginning this Monday, June 15. The football team will be the first Rutgers athletic program to return to campus. The men’s basketball team is hoping to return on June 22, which we previously reported here.
In a press release, athletic director Pat Hobbs said “The health and safety of our students, coaches and administrators has been our paramount concern throughout this process. With the guidance of healthcare experts, University administration, and in consultation with the Offices of the Governor and Secretary for Higher Education, we have devised a carefully detailed plan with protocols and processes for how our athletic facilities will used in this time of COVID -19.”
The University’s partnership with RWJBarnabas is a valuable one overall, but especially in today’s climate due to the global pandemic. The press release gave details on how the program plans to handle the safety and wellbeing of all due to COVID-19 and the guidance they will receive:
The athletic department has engaged in an extensive planning process to ensure the safe return of its student-athletes when the time arrived. Under the direction of Rutgers Athletics Chief Medical Officer Joshua Bershad, architects of the plan have collaborated with healthcare experts throughout the state as well as the Big Ten Conference Taskforce for Emerging Infections Disease, which includes a cohort of medical officials from across the country.
Bershad, who serves as Executive Vice President, Physician Services for RWJBarnabas Health, called on his first-hand experience in the fight against COVID-19 in the epicenter of the pandemic’s impact on the country to provide invaluable input in creating a plan that prioritized the safety and health of the student-athletes, coaches and support staff.
“We created a set of recommendations based on guidance supplied by internal experts within multiple areas of Rutgers University, and from our experience in caring for thousands of COVID-19 patients at RWJBarnabas Health,” said Bershad. “We utilize the Rutgers Saliva Test extensively in our process, which is yet another advantage of the partnership between a cutting edge research university like Rutgers and top-flight health system like RWJBarnabas Health.”
Additionally, medical innovations on the Rutgers University campus offered the athletic department unparalleled resources. The saliva test for coronavirus was developed at Rutgers and was first of its kind to receive Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. The saliva test allows for the screening of a broader population and is less invasive than the nose and throat swabs.
The at-home saliva test also provided the advantage to test student-athletes prior to arriving to campus, thus reducing the risk of exposure. It is part of a multifaceted clinical approach that involves a resocialization plan which includes an initial testing strategy for COVID-19, followed by ongoing COVID-19 surveillance and protocols for the management of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases. Student-athletes will undergo daily health screenings and temperature checks.
Head coach Greg Schiano said of the return, “Our staff have been entrusted with the well-being of every player on our team. This is an immense responsibility, and one we take very seriously. We will continue to work closely with Dr. Bershad and his staff to provide a safe return to campus.”
This is great news for Rutgers fans, as the football team needs as much time together as possible to prepare for the much anticipated fall season, the first of Schiano’s second tenure on the banks. While there is still uncertainty around the country as COVID-19 cases rise in almost half of the 50 states, there has been a steady decline in New Jersey that led to Governor Murphy ending the statewide stay-at-home order earlier this week.
We know that college football teams are hoping to begin training camp roughly six weeks before the projected schedule for the fall occurs. With Rutgers set to resume workouts on Monday, that would likely give them roughly a month plus before training camp would seem set to begin. For fans clamoring for the return of sports, this is certainly some good news.