Kent State football team continues return to campus amid COVID-19 pandemic


The Kent State football schedule. The first game is Sep. 5 at Penn State University. Photo courtesy of Kent State Athletics. 

Editor’s Note: As of Friday July 10, the scheduled start of full squad workouts on Monday has been pushed back due to the season opener at Penn State being canceled. Players will not be returning to campus over the weekend. 

Phase two of the Kent State football team’s return to campus is set to start at the beginning of next week. 

“We’ve got about 30 guys who have been back for three weeks now at the tail end of this week, and then the remainder of our team will be moving on to campus and getting back into town this weekend,” coach Sean Lewis said. “Everyone will be back starting Monday, officially, and we’ll be working out in different, segmented controlled pods as we work towards getting everybody back together and in preparation for the season.” 

The 30 players who have been back for three weeks consist solely of upperclassmen who had their own places to live off-campus and voluntarily returned to workout. On-campus housing has been reopened, allowing for the rest of the players to return at the end of the week. 

According to Lewis, everyone involved with the football program will be tested for COVID-19 on Sunday in testing pods consisting of 15 individuals. While waiting for the results, each testing pod will be quarantined together. 

“Those 15 individuals are the only 15 individuals that they’re going to see until we know the results,” Lewis said. “Everything they’re going to be doing in those groups of 15 will be outside to mitigate risk and to reduce the risk of exposure.” 

After receiving the results of the test, the groups will transition to lifting weights and working out inside. 

“We’re going to do that for about two weeks,” Lewis said. “And then if all goes smoothly, as we are anticipating that it will, then we will transition to where we bring the whole offense together and the whole defense together and do things, roughly for two weeks, of just offense, defense kind of groupings.”  

This will lead up to Aug. 7, the designated first day of training camp and the first time the full team will get together. Lewis doesn’t expect any player to opt out of returning, though whether or not to return is purely the players choice. 

“We do have some unique circumstances on the team, with some guys that have some previous health conditions,” Lewis said. “If they choose not to come back, I fully understand that. But as of right now, no one has voiced that they are not coming back.” 

No limitations will be imposed on the players in regard to where they can and cannot go, both on and off campus, but they will be educated on the virus and how it spreads. 

“I’m a big believer, more so in education than limitation,” Lewis said.  “To just knowing and educating, as far as how fast everything can spread and how quickly things can go from zero to X number of how many cases that would lead to things being taken out of our hands and ultimately a shutdown. So just educating our guys about what they’re doing when they’re away from the facilities and obviously all the precautions that we’re taking to mitigate the risks and keep them safe.” 

Despite all the changes coronavirus has brought, Lewis still expects to be game ready for Kent State’s first game on Sep. 5 against Penn State. 

“So we philosophically are probably erring on the side of being overcautious,” Lewis said. “So that I’m more concerned about being game ready on Sep. 5 and not so much obviously being game ready on Aug. 7 for our first day of practice.”

Contact Gina Butkovich at [email protected]