Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke was a guest on Friday’s Eye on the Ball show on KVOI (1030-AM) with an emphasis on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on college sports, specifically on his programs.
In the aftermath of Houston having to suspend voluntary workouts because some athletes were diagnosed with COVID-19, Heeke reiterated that Arizona will make it a priority that student-athletes will be thoroughly tested and put in quarantine before they can start their workouts on Monday. The workouts will be conducted in waves, starting with a group of 20 football players who are in proximity to Tucson.
It was reported that Houston did not pretest the athletes before they worked out.
“Each one of them, when they arrive back, are given a physical and then they are tested, both for a swab test or the nasal swab and an antibody test,” Heeke said. “And then they are quarantined for the remainder of their period for seven to eight more days. And then, we’re going to start on Monday, they can come into the facilities.
“We’ve been outfront with this. We’re blessed to have a great leader in (Arizona president) Dr. (Robert C.) Robbins, a really talented medical school and environment here, the hospital, all the people, the scientists who are doing really outstanding work. We have a really, really robust testing. We don’t want something that happened at Houston to happen here.”
Heeke mentioned that Arizona does anticipate some athletes to test positive for COVID-19 when they return to campus to get tested. He added that tests will be performed on athletes weekly.
“It’s really about how you manage that; what are the protocols, the guidelines you have set in place so that when someone does test positive how you make sure that does not become a substantial problem and a big outbreak in the community,” Heeke said.
Heeke also said when the athletes do return to campus they undergo a “very significant education process” on avoiding contracting COVID-19. That includes wearing a facemask at all times in public when they are not working out.
“Our coaching staff is engaged in that, our medical team, our head doctor is involved in that,” he said. “(They’re) really talking about the responsibility that we all have. If we want to play football, if we want to have a season that we all want, if you as an individual want to have a season to remember, it starts with doing the right things around the coronavirus process.
“We’re going to have to rely on people. We have to learn how to live with this to a degree as a society and people need to understand their responsibilities.”
The wave of athletes entering the campus after the initial 20 football players will be 30 each of the following two weeks. In the first week of July, all freshmen and newcomers of the football team will report and get tested.
He added that the next 30 days will be crucial in gauging if the football season will start on time with the season-opener Aug. 29 against Hawaii at Arizona Stadium.
Heeke also talked about the plan to allow staff members in addition to coaching personnel to return to McKale Center, the potential of allowing 50 percent capacity to attend sporting events, Arizona’s football uniform scheme, the Bighorn Fire that earlier this week threatened houses, including his, in the Catalina Foothills and more.
Here is the interview (Eye on the Ball is weekdays at 6 p.m. and can be heard streamed live at KVOI.com).
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.