Wednesday, 12 August 2020 14:00


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NORMAN — The Big 12 Conference announced today that it will move forward with plans to play football this fall. University leaders said they support the decision and will soon announce modifications that will be in place for the 2020 sports seasons.

The decision to continue the fall season as planned also applies to other sports that traditionally compete in the fall, which at OU includes cross country, women's volleyball and women's soccer.

The athletics department is finalizing policies and procedures that will be in place for the upcoming season including significant protocols for spectators and are forthcoming.

"The health of our student-athletes is paramount," said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. "Our decisions for the fall sports season are made based upon the guidance of national medical experts and our seasoned medical team including our chief football physician, head athletic trainer and OU's chief COVID officer. To date at OU, we've been highly successful in mitigating the transmission of the virus in our athletics operations because of their expertise. Their considered opinion at this time, is that with the additional safety measures we will insist on for our student-athletes and all we play against, our student-athletes' overall health and welfare is best protected by proceeding with the season. Importantly, their decades of experience inform their opinion that our students would be at greater health risk by being outside the rigorous protocols we have in place.

"In addition, we have listened to our student-athletes that have made it clear that they want to play. With the number of additional safety precautions being put in place by the Big 12, combined with OU's sophisticated protocols, we're poised to move forward with the season as safely as we practically can. As in everything we do in response to COVID-19, we will proceed cautiously, constantly assessing the state of the virus and its impact on our community members."

Joe Castiglione, OU Vice President and Director of Athletics said that a thorough department plan that was developed before student-athletes returned to campus includes components that will be added for game settings.

"We have been unwavering in putting our focus squarely on the well-being of our student-athletes and staff members," Castiglione said. "We have gone to great lengths in setting a list of protocols that were guided by our medical team and in consultation with industry leaders. There has been great effort expended in areas like testing and sanitizing, which are part of a comprehensive plan. We are prepared to not only continue those practices, but to expand them as we move into this phase of the upcoming season.

"We have been clear in presenting our plans to student-athletes, parents and guardians and we will continue in a spirit of transparency to provide our student-athletes with opportunities and information so they can make well-informed decisions."

OU Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler, who has been involved throughout the planning for student-athletes, said the plan has worked and will be enhanced.

"The increased season modifications build on OU Athletics' already well-established set of protocols to protect its student-athletes," said OU Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler. "The results speak for themselves, with only one positive football case since the start of training earlier this summer. The enhanced practices coming out of the Big 12 will only add to the important policies already in place at OU."

OU team physician Dr. Brock Schnebel concurred with Bratzler's view.

"We understand that the virus comes with risk and we work to manage that risk every day," said Schnebel. "To date, we have experienced success in that management with one positive test on the football team since the ream reported to Norman. As the student-athletes continue training and competing, we will continue to subject them to the same rigorous standards that have been in place thus far, while recommending other safeguards for stadium management and travel.

"To be clear, there are risks in playing, in not playing, and in returning everyone to their homes. We feel that for the student-athletes' mental and overall well-being, it is best to let them continue in this setting and with the additional modifications that will be enacted as we expand to game settings."

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