Racer Restart Initiative

Football games at Roy Stewart Stadium will take place under very different circumstances this season under guidelines that include required PPE for spectators and a lowered maximum capacity number.

MURRAY — Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, actions are being taken all over the world to ensure a safe return to normalcy and Murray State is no different.

Murray State University President Bob Jackson established the Racer Restart Committee to come up with a plan for a return to on-campus activities. 

With input from several bright minds, the committee has developed a plan that was released on June 20, that details dining, social distancing guidelines, class instruction delivery, travel, events and athletics.

“I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in creating our Racer Restart plan,” Jackson said. “Nearly 200 faculty, staff, students, healthcare professionals and others have assisted and collaborated throughout the development of this plan as we take a proactive, careful and thoughtful approach in preparation for a successful fall semester. In the midst of an ever-changing situation, our guiding principle will continue to be the health, safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and broader community.”

The full document can be accessed online via murraystate.edu that details the plan to accommodate all students and faculty amid the pandemic.

As for athletics, there were eight bullet points highlighted to show how the return to play would occur.

“Decisions about holding particular athletic activities, practices and events (organized and informal) and under what conditions will be determined on a case-by-case basis,” the document reads, “with full adherence to university, state and national health guidelines and in compliance with NCAA and Ohio Valley Conference guidelines.”

This shows that the return will be based on how effectively safety can be ensured. There’s not a universal answer to whether sports will resume. Instead each case will be evaluated separately.

“The athletics director will communicate NCAA and Conference policy, protocol and/or decisions to the university administration, as the situation arises,” the document continues.

According to this, athletics director Kevin Saal will continue to stay in touch with NCAA and OVC officials regarding a return to play and the overall plan and that the ultimate decision is not his to make in regards to athletics.

“The use of weight rooms and training/treatment rooms must be scheduled through athletics staff to reinforce proper social distancing and occupancy limits,” the document states.

Not unexpected, this ensures the maximum capacity isn’t surpassed, but will make things difficult. Typically teams work out together in large groups, and now they will be required to space out the workouts to accommodate the social distancing guidelines.

“Enhanced cleaning and disinfectant protocols will be established for all athletics facilities with guidance from SSC (Surviving Sepsis Campaign) and all state and federal authorities, medical professionals, NCAA and the Ohio Valley Conference.”

As the document outlined, health and safety are of utmost importance so cleaning protocols will be more thorough to subdue any chance of spreading COVID-19 among teammates from contact with equipment.

“Athletics will implement a pre-determined spectator access model regarding required PPE and reduced capacity seating for all athletic events, based upon social distancing guidelines as a percentage of overall capacity or prescribed square footage per person.”

The university will utilize social distancing guidelines, such as reduced attendance numbers and spreading out attendees to maintain an acceptable distance. Each sport will be affected differently by these guidelines, but ultimately the purpose is safety of the players, fans and community.

“Athletics will ensure, to the greatest extent practicable, that all fans and volunteers will wear a cloth face mask, unless exempted with documentation by a medical professional, when attending events.”

This is a big one for fans as it states that all attendees will be ‘required’ to wear masks while attending sporting events. It is not a recommendation but a requirement. Again, these guidelines are for the safety of everyone involved. 

“Athletics fans and volunteers should follow all state and federal safety and health guidelines when attending events.”

These guidelines will be readily available for consumption around the venues and should be taken seriously.

“All concessions equipment and areas will continue to be cleaned and disinfected in advance of the fall semester. In addition, all concession equipment and areas will be cleaned thoroughly before and after usage, once health officials deem athletic events appropriate.”

Safety measures will be extended to include concession areas and cleaning protocols will be implemented there as well. The interesting part of this bullet point is the wording ‘once health officials deem athletic events appropriate.’ This lends to the idea that sports are still not guaranteed to take place this upcoming semester. As it has been from the start, the COVID-19 impact and response remains fluid and unpredictable. 

With a plan in place, one can only hope that the plan gets to be put into action and sports return. 

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