Southern addresses questions regarding Bayou Classic, student-athletes return to campus
BATON ROUGE - As many of Louisiana's student-athletes return to their respective fields for socially distanced workouts, the state's football fans eagerly anticipate a decision from Southern University as to the status of the Bayou Classic and its student-athletes' return to campus.
According to The Advocate, Southern athletic director Roman Banks believes it's time to prepare for Fall, meaning he'd like to implement a detailed plan for the safe return of Southern's more than 150 athletes to campus after July 4.
The university's chosen return strategy is of special interest to football fans as it will also include a definitive site for the Bayou Classic set for Nov. 28.
These very questions were raised Wednesday, when the office of New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the city is still open to hosting the game, as long as conditions remained conducive to holding such a large event.
“Conversations with tourism and business leaders on a variety of topics have been ongoing since our coronavirus response began, including but not limited to the Bayou Classic,” a City Hall spokesperson said Wednesday.
“We are supportive of any efforts by the Saints and the Bayou Classic organizers to create an event that is in accordance with the guidelines of each phase of the reopening to ensure a safe event that will not prevent further spread.
“It should be noted that it’s mid-June and the game is in late November. We’re still working our way through the early days of Phase 2, and hope to be farther along in the coming months.”
Last Friday, Banks created a stir during a Southern University System meeting when he said Southern's annual game against Grambling was not likely to be held in at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in either 2020 or 2021.
But this week, Banks said no final decision has been made about where this year’s 47th Bayou Classic will be played.
He also mentioned that he's vetting three other possible locations — LSU’s Tiger Stadium, Independence Stadium in Shreveport, and the Jaguars' A.W. Mumford Stadium.
Banks said these locations are being considered because they meet social distancing requirements.
The Bayou Classic is not the only Southern game in limbo. Banks said he hopes to meet with promoters for the Jaguars’ Sept. 5 game with Tennessee State scheduled to be played at Detroit’s Ford Field to determine its status.
Banks said he also anticipates that next week’s meeting for SWAC officials will be a critical aspect of the decision-making process.
“We need to start advertising what our season is going to look like as soon as we can,” Banks said. “My hope is that by the time we meet next week there may be a better idea about whether the season will start on time and other things.”
According to Banks, athletes participating in football, volleyball, soccer and cross country will be allowed to return to campus after July 4 for voluntary workouts that will feature smaller groups than Louisiana’s Phase 2 or Phase 3 reopening recommendations.
But, locker rooms will not be open. Banks said athletes will have to provide their own practice clothing. He said the school will provide water and other hydration products.
“We’re not going to over-populate ourselves in any area. We need to make sure we do this systematically,” Banks said.
“The fall sports that we are behind on we will try to get started first. Right now that is probably enough and we will have to have a precise plan.
“Our weight room is not a large one. You’re talking about only 12 students in a group in that weight room at one time. We can’t bring in 25 at a time because people would be on top of each other.
“Keeping that in mind, you’re talking about staff working from sunup to sundown to get workouts in.”
Banks said Southern began a professional deep-cleaning of its fieldhouse Tuesday. He said SU is purchasing foggers to sanitize areas, such as the weight room and meeting rooms. Sanitizing mists and wipes also will be used.
Banks said coaches will be asked to host team meetings outside as much as possible and will have to get creative with indoor meetings by allowing a small number of players to meet in person with others joining virtually.
Banks said the number of walk-on players invited to join Jaguar teams will be smaller because of available locker room space.
“We like having players from this area join our teams, particularly the football team as walk-ons,” Banks said. “We like to have up to 30 guys. But with the locker room capacity we have that won’t be possible. Again, we won’t overload anything.”
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