THATCHER, Ariz. – Eastern Arizona College (EAC) plans to welcome nearly 100 student athletes to its Thatcher Campus this fall for academic study and practice, although their sport seasons will not begin until spring semester. This decision is subject to change due to evolving circumstances, and will be guided by an operational plan developed to protect and safeguard the well-being of student athletes, coaches, staff, and members of the community.
Recently, the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference (ACCAC) postponed sport seasons until spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. Maricopa Community College – the largest college district in the state – chose to do so as well.
“Even though the season doesn’t begin until January, we want our student athletes back on campus this fall,” said Jim Bagnall, EAC athletic director and division chair for the Health and Physical Education Department. “Our emphasis is on providing an education that prepares them for life beyond sports. EAC’s Athletic Department is confident that we can minimize risk of viral transmission among staff and student athletes while at the same time restoring some sense of normalcy to their academic and athletic preparation.”
Critical to the department’s operational plan is the immediate testing and isolation of all student athletes upon their return to campus. Athletes will be tested and isolation will commence until a negative test result is achieved. This isolation period could last as long as 14 days. Athletes will be closely monitored with daily screenings and temperature testing. As students arrive on campus, they will attend orientations on proper social distancing and hygiene practices.
“There is a strict screening protocol in place to protect our teams and those who work with them,” said Bagnall. “Although student athletes won’t have to wear masks during training, they must stay at least six feet apart inside the facility. All shared equipment will be cleaned and sanitized prior to and after each use. While on campus, our athletes will be expected to wear masks to help set an example to other students.”
EAC is in the third phase of a four-phased return to campus plan and will offer on-campus, blended, live remote, and remote classes this fall. The strictest safety measures – requiring masks for all faculty and staff inside campus buildings, ensuring to quarantine any student, faculty, or staff who has been diagnosed with or been around someone with COVID-19, and encouraging students to mask-up, stay six-feet apart, wash their hands, and conduct a daily low-tech well check – will be enforced.
“The health and safety of our campus and surrounding community is our number one priority,” stated EAC President Todd Haynie. “We will continue to coordinate with local and state authorities, and do everything we can to provide a safe learning environment for our students and student athletes and a safe working environment for our faculty and staff.”
It is anticipated that the ACCAC will develop conference schedules with new season dates developed by the NJCAA over the next few weeks. EAC will continue to coordinate with these governing associations and other community colleges and will provide updates as decisions are made.
As of today Volleyball and both basketball teams will start practice on January 11th, 2021 with the regular season starting on January 22nd.