During this unprecedented time, college athletic students at Pacific University were promised a fall sports season in 2020, but due to rising COVID cases, they had to be shut down. Pacific Athletic Director Keith Buckley made it a primary goal to have all sports play in Spring 2021.
“Our conference as a whole has been working extensively to take what was recommended by NCAA and we have been able to formulate it for the best interest of our student athletes in a conference wide protocol,” said Buckley. “It’s been a challenge and we had to be in reactive mode and not proactive mode which is the hardest part all due to COVID guidelines and having to adapt to those guidelines since it changes very rapidly.”
In his first year as Athletic Director, Buckley has dealt with COVID guidelines like required testing protocol, elevating low contact sports into the intermediate category, and releasing mandates on masks for all coach-lead practices to prevent any more spread. Back in the last semester, students were hoping to be able to compete but got denied the ability to do so after COVID-19 cases had risen.
“It’s not how I envisioned my first year but we in the athletics department had to really focus in the moment, not so much on the future, and our student athletes’ experience by limiting physically distanced practices with no contact or competition and that was the best we could really offer,” Buckley said. “I feel like people appreciated being back on campus and being with their teammates nonetheless.”
Due to the quick spread of the virus, the question of how athletics will react to a positive COVID test is something Buckley must think about. If one person were to test positive for the virus, they would fall under campus protocols and be required to quarantine for two weeks or be transferred to an empty room whether or not they have a roommate for that same time period.
“We have monitoring and support that manage not just student athletes but any student as well,” Buckley said. “We would go through a contact tracing process to identify what other individuals may have been in contact with the individual who tested positive.”
After going through the contact tracing process, the Student Health center will call the individual and others who have been contacted with a day by day information session based on test results, if they have any symptoms, and how they’re holding up in quarantine. Athletes of all different sports have to be tested frequently depending on the type of sport they compete in from high to medium to low contact sports. High contact sports range from football to wrestling. For medium baseball, softball, or swimming, and low contact sports range from tennis to track and field.
“Everyone on the roster depending on the sport and contact that they play in would get tested weekly to every other week all based on relative risk,” said Buckley. High contact sports are tested every week which requires all of the roster to get tested, medium and low contact sports would get tested weekly or every other week according to the athletics department only requiring either 25% to 50% of their roster. Intermediate contact sports will normally test 25% of their roster every week, and low contact sports would require 25% or 50% of their roster to get tested every other week. In being able to keep practices going, all athletes and coaches are required to wear masks at all times and physically distance themselves as much as they can.
As Oregon is now in a high risk category instead of extreme, all student athletes are still required to monitor their health every day, stay socially distanced, and if all goes well then the season will continue with barely any interruptions; along with Buckley and the athletics department continuing to make sure that the student athletes will be able to compete through May. — Rush Williams