OSU community members,
I am writing to share that Thursday afternoon Pac-12 university presidents and chancellors unanimously approved conference football teams resuming contact practice and playing games without spectators beginning the weekend of Nov. 6 and Nov. 7, 2020.
Unfortunately, due to health and safety considerations, all Pac-12 football games, including at OSU, will not include participation by university bands, cheer squads or tailgating on university property.
Competition involving men and women’s basketball teams may begin Nov. 25 consistent with NCAA official season dates for these sports. Other winter sports may begin consistent with NCAA official season dates for those sports. Other fall 2020 intercollegiate sports, including volleyball, cross country and soccer will be played in winter and spring 2021 as those NCAA championships have been moved to spring.
I strongly support these decisions. As your president, I have been committed to prioritizing the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and athletics staff, along with the health and safety of all OSU students, faculty and staff, members of the OSU community and communities in which we are located. Be assured all decisions that I make regarding the university’s resumption plans, activities and athletics are based upon input and recommendations from a team of medical advisers and research scientists, and are in alignment with county health authorities, Gov. Kate Brown’s Office and the Oregon Health Authority.
Pac-12 presidents and chancellors voted to resume football competition due to the availability and development in recent weeks of rapid testing systems. As such, we are doing everything recommended to protect our student-athletes, who have expressed their desire to compete in their chosen sport in a safe manner.
For example, we now can test our student-athletes frequently with a swab test that provides results in 15 minutes. This test was not available in quantities sufficient for repeat testing six weeks ago when Pac-12 university presidents and chancellors voted to postpone football. Since then, our medical experts also have additional data on the occurrence of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, which has been discovered in a small number of student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19. Based on additional medical review, a student-athlete who has tested positive for COVID-19 now will undergo a required MRI that will be reviewed by a cardiologist after the student-athlete leaves isolation and tests negative for the virus. Even six weeks ago, medical advisers and researchers had said these measures would enable resumption of football competition in either late fall or early winter.
The university’s commitment to frequent testing of student-athletes engaged in high contact sports is in keeping with OSU’s resumption plan and testing protocols, which include weekly testing of up to 1,000 faculty, staff and students through TRACE OSU. Meanwhile, our resumption plan emphasizes low-density presence of employees and students on our campuses; predominantly remote instruction in Corvallis; significant public health measures throughout our campuses, other worksites and buildings; and move-in testing of students living in residence halls.
Prior to making this decision, I shared my considerations with members of the OSU Board of Trustees; consulted with OSU’s Faculty Athletic Representative, the Faculty Senate president, OSU Vice President and Athletics Director Scott Barnes, and football Coach Jonathan Smith; and informed university and student leaders of these developments. There was consistent but cautious support for resuming football competition if these additional testing procedures are incorporated and all guidelines followed, as well as other protocols recommended by medical advisers and researchers. As well, OSU and other Pac-12 schools will continue to provide medical care for their student-athletes — including those who choose to not participate this season — for four years after a student-athlete completes their eligibility or turns 26.
Going forward, we will continue to shape university decisions with the input and guidance of our scientists and medical experts. As additional testing opportunities become available, we will add to the availability of multiple tests and opportunities for faculty, staff and students to be tested.
At all times, the health, safety, and wellness of our student-athletes and all members of the university community will always remain our top priority.
F. King Alexander