Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy said Tuesday he’s confident tests for the coronavirus will be available in a few weeks, which he hopes will allow his staff, and eventually his players, to resume football duties on May 1, according to ESPN. That timetable, however, would defy federal social-distancing guidelines and was quickly disputed by the university and its athletic director.
The Cowboys football coach, who spoke to reporters in a teleconference Tuesday, said though he is not 100 percent sure whether the plan can be implemented by his target date, his ultimate goal is for everyone to return safely and get back to work.
“How fast that can happen based on the tests that are available, I can’t say right now, but that’s the plan,” Gundy said according to ESPN. “We have to have a plan, and the plan right now is for them to start on May 1. It might get backed up two weeks. I don’t know, I can’t make that call, but if it does, we’ll start with the employees of this company, the ones that come in this building. Then we’ll bring the players in, and slowly but surely we’ll test them all in.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended against gatherings of 50 or more people through May 11 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which as of Tuesday had infected more than 380,000 people in the United States and killed 81,000 worldwide, including at least 11,000 in the U.S.
The Cowboys only have three players currently on campus according to Gundy, who said 105 players were on hand for spring football last month.
Following Gundy’s comments, Oklahoma State issued a statement saying, essentially, the decision about when to bring the football team back to campus wouldn’t be up to the coach.
“We will adhere to the advice of public health experts who are making informed decisions in the best interest of the citizens of our nation and state based on sound scientific data,” the university statement said. “We will also abide by the federal and state mandates as well as Big 12 guidelines. We will not compromise the health and well-being of our campus community. This virus is deadly and we will do our part at Oklahoma State to help blunt the spread.”
Athletic director Mike Holder also declined to back Gundy’s timeline, saying in a statement: “May 1 seems a little ambitious.”
Gundy, who has been at home with his wife Kristen and teenage sons Gunnar and Gage, said he has continued to work from home and has frequently conducted videoconferences with his staff and players. He praised the state’s first responders, nurses and doctors for their response against the coronavirus and is not taking lightly how much damage the virus has caused.
If he is able to enact his May 1 plan, Gundy said the program would require any person who tests positive for COVID-19 to self-quarantine and get medical treatment.
The protocol would be the same, according to the Cowboys coach, as it would be if a player or staff contracted the flu during a football season. An older employee who could have an underlying condition would not be allowed back until declared healthy.
But the bottom line, according to Gundy, is that he wants the players to get back to work.
“I’m not taking away from the danger of people getting sick,” Gundy said. “You have the virus, stay healthy, try to do what we can to help people that are sick. And we’re losing lives, which is just terrible. The second part of it is that we still have to schedule and continue to move forward as life goes on and help those people.”
— With AP