UNT Saturday blog

North Texas players Spiriki as they take the field before a game at Apogee Stadium. UNT officials put the health of players first when they laid out a detailed plan to return them to campus in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The North Texas athletic department laid out a detailed and well thought out plan late last month to begin bringing its football players back to campus.

Formulating that plan seemed like a great move back then.

It looks even smarter now.

UNT officials acknowledged on Thursday that three players in the first group of approximately 30 to report to campus to resume an offseason program tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. All three underwent follow-up tests to see if they are currently infected and are in isolation as they wait for the results.

The antibody tests and follow-up nasal swabs are all part of UNT’s plan to keep its athletes safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 among its athletes and staff.

Seth Littrell

Seth Littrell

“I absolutely feel good about what we are doing,” UNT coach Seth Littrell said during a teleconference on Thursday when he acknowledged the positive antibody tests. “We are making sure we are doing things the right way.”

Not all schools were as cautious as UNT.

Houston allowed its football players to return June 1 and did not test anyone unless they showed symptoms of COVID-19. The school announced Friday afternoon that it had suspended its summer conditioning program after six players showed symptoms of COVID-19, were tested and came back positive.

Other programs have begun resuming their offseason programs and have had players test positive for COVID-19. Marshall, one of UNT’s rivals in Conference USA, saw three players test positive. Seven Arkansas State players tested positive.

Keeping players healthy is paramount as teams prepare for a shortened run-up to the college football season. The Division I Football Oversight Committee finalized its recommendation for the weeks leading up to the season late this week.

The plan, which first must be approved by the Division I Council on Wednesday, lays out what will a quick preseason. UNT players will be allowed eight hours of weight training, conditioning and film review per week from July 13-23.

From July 24 to Aug. 6, UNT’s players will be allowed to participate in 20 hours of activities, including eights hours of weight room work, six hours of walk-throughs and six hours of meetings.

Practice will begin on Aug. 7.

UNT put the health of its players first as it prepared for the run-up to the season and will enter the next phase when its quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and defensive backs arrive on Monday. Those players will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies just as the linemen, linebackers and tight ends who reported last week.

There is still a long way to go for the Mean Green when it comes to having all of their players back as the program turns its attention to the preseason plan laid out by the NCAA.

Even with three positive tests for COVID-19 antibodies, UNT has to like how its return has unfolded so far.

School officials who laid out the plan deserve credit for putting the program on solid ground.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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