FARGO — North Dakota State is hoping to make a decision this week on when student-athletes can return to campus for summer workouts. But even if the athletic department sets a date, other factors could impede the process.
Both the state of North Dakota and the NCAA could have authority over the NDSU athletic department depending on the circumstance. Both governmental bodies have come out with guidelines on a safe and healthy workout environment in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
North Dakota, for instance, has opened gyms and health clubs with restrictions.
“Those are all things that we’re looking at,” said NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen.
NDSU believes that having student-athletes under their weight training roof at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex would be safer for the players than working out at health clubs around the city.
“At local gyms, you have people coming from all different parts of town and you don’t have as much control over them,” Larsen said.
Another element of control at the SHAC, Larsen said, is a full-time custodial staff that has the ability to thoroughly clean between workout groups. Those groups would also be smaller in numbers than previous summers.
The NCAA has yet to make a final determination on summer access, Larsen said. In a normal year, basketball and football players would be on campus beginning this month having access to individual workouts with coaches and voluntary weight training with the strength and conditioning staff.
If the NCAA were to eliminate both activities for all member schools, then NDSU would be bound by that decision. Furthermore, if the state of North Dakota were to change its current business operating regulations, NDSU would also be bound by that.
“We would like to make a decision this week unless something else comes out that would change that,” Larsen said. “If the NCAA comes out and says you can only do X, Y and Z, then we would have to re-adjust, but ideally we would like to come out with a plan based on what we know today that would allow student-athletes to return at some point in the summer. Whether that is in June or July, we’re still working through those details.”
Meanwhile, Bison football players, for instance, are communicating with assistant athletic director for athletic performance Jim Kramer and his staff virtually in workouts. Some players have configured their own weight rooms while some are doing primarily body weight exercises.
“He’s done a really good job of trying to get the most out of them with what they have at their disposal,” Larsen said of Kramer. “That’s not going to get them to where they need to be to compete in the season. So obviously being able to get them back here the earlier the better is big for him to get them in the shape they’re going to need to be at to compete.”
NDSU opens its season Sept. 5 at the University of Oregon. Larsen said he was encouraged with Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens coming out last Friday saying the Ducks are proceeding as if they’re going to play all 12 regular season games.
That despite a statement by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown that all large gatherings may need to be modified or canceled through September.
“I think that’s really good news,” Larsen said. “I think if you ask most athletic directors that’s what we’re gunning for is to play the whole season. I think football drives so much of college athletics and drives a lot of athletic department budgets, so the ability to compete athletically depends on the football season. They’re in the same boat most people are, they’re hopeful to play all 12 games. If we have to adjust, we’ll adjust but going into it, we all want to play.”