Thanks to the approval of the NCAA’s Division I Council on Wednesday, football and basketball student-athletes can return to campuses for voluntary workouts beginning June 1, provided all local, state, and federal regulations are followed.
Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said prior to the vote that the Buckeye football team would be back in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on June 8, provided the vote went the way it did.
With the vote going in the affirmative, the Buckeyes will begin returning in staggered stages. Some are already in town, while others may have factors that may not allow them back immediately.
The return will give the players access to the best workout equipment and professionals in college sports, which is something they have been missing while campus has been shut down. It will also allow the Ohio State strength and conditioning staff to monitor everything that happens and where everybody is in terms of weight, nutrition, muscle mass, and all of those things that are taken so seriously.
While the workouts are voluntary, the players don’t treat them as such. Participation is essential in being strong enough to see the field during the season.
Not having such ease of access at home, however, the workouts may only be so effective. And due to NCAA rules, there are no requirements for players to report in detail what they’re doing, and if the coaches press the issue on what they’re doing, then the workouts stop feeling all that voluntary.
“We have some guidelines on us that this time period is, at least for physical activity, is voluntary. So they can’t really by NCAA rules report objectively back to us,” OSU strength coach Mickey Marotti said. “Now, we do contact them, and they do report back how they’re doing just from a wellness and a safety standpoint, nutritional standpoint, and things that we’re permitted to do. So it’s really hard.”
The strength staff has given players workouts that they can do if they like. They have designed an app to give each player guidance based on what they have access to, along with a schedule to follow, but it’s all voluntary, just as it is on campus. With Marotti and his staff around for on-campus workouts, the monitoring takes care of itself.
When the players are off campus and on their own like they are now, however, it’s left up to the players to follow through on their own. The only monitoring comes after the fact and conversationally.
But that is also where the culture of the program comes in and the brotherhood that gets spoken of so often. Head coach Ryan Day bypassed the use of FitBits or watches to monitor their players movements early on, citing NCAA reporting rules and also the fact that if they need to keep track of their players like that, then they don’t have the program they thought they did.
“We can’t mandate that they do this training. They can’t video things and send it back to us,” Marotti said. “We can’t virtually train. Meaning like we have a Zoom call and there’s like a group of eight and we’re watching them train, you can’t do that. So, a lot of it is doing it when nobody else is watching.”