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Arizona football workouts to continue despite statewide shutdown of gyms

NCAA FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Arizona Bowl - South Alabama v Air Force Photo by Chris Coduto/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Arizona governor Doug Ducey on Monday announced a month-long shutdown of gyms as coronavirus cases surge in the state, but Arizona Wildcats athletic director Dave Heeke said the UA has consulted with the governor’s office and the closures will not affect the 83 UA student-athletes—all football players—who have already returned to campus for voluntary workouts.

Those will go on.

“Those are done in very controlled spaces, monitored,” Heeke explained Tuesday on WildcatsRadio1290. “These are not public facilities. We’ve done it with all the appropriate social distancing, all the appropriate sterilization techniques. We have much of our conditioning and an abundance of our weightlifting gear outside now in the football stadium. And really you come into your own individual little area. You do your workout, you leave, it’s sterilized. We have those protocols in place, so we can continue.”

The UA has paused its re-entry plan, however, announcing Monday that the rest of the student-athlete population will not return to campus until further notice. Soccer and volleyball players were scheduled to start trickling back in early July, as were the football team’s newcomers.

One of the 83 student-athletes on campus tested positive for COVID-19, but Heeke reiterated that was not the reason for the pause.

“We’re concerned about hospital beds and capacities,” he said. “And we thought it probably wasn’t best to bring people from different destinations, different spots around the country into Tucson. And, at the same time, just bring more people in that could potentially put more pressure on our healthcare system here locally.”

While the Arizona football, volleyball and soccer seasons are scheduled to start in late August, Heeke said there is “no rush” to resume re-entry.

“We’re still in just voluntary workouts,” he said. “I think everyone understood that and appreciated it. ... We take it kind of day by day, but we’ll probably get through the Fourth of July and see where we’re going and see where the trends are going. But our intention is to bring everyone back, our intention is to be ready to compete and have our athletes prepared to start school and to prepare to compete in the fall.”

The UA student-athlete who tested positive is in the school’s recovery protocol, which includes quarantining, treatment, contact tracing and testing before getting clearance to return for workouts.

“That was a very low-risk positive, so it had low-risk contact with folks,” Heeke said. “So we don’t have a real large concern even over that one test.”

In addition to the protocols inside the facilities, Heeke said all student-athletes are tested three times a week, extensively contact traced, and have to answer a medical questionnaire every time they arrive for workouts.

Anybody who “doesn’t feel that great needs to step back and go home,” Heeke said.

Two UA football players wondered why the team is on campus when school president Dr. Robert Robbins said normal students wouldn’t be allowed to return under these conditions. Heeke reminded listeners that these are voluntary workouts.

“So if anybody doesn’t feel comfortable, if anybody doesn’t want to be here, any of our student-athletes want to take a little bit of a break, they can do that and they all know that,” he said. “We have not had anyone do that yet, and they’re pretty excited to be back on campus. And they want to train. They want to have some structure in their lives.”