Mike Boynton and Oklahoma State have three more weeks to make its final safety preparations before players are allowed back on campus.
The Big 12 Conference is permitting all student-athletes to return to campus starting July 15 – though football is already allowed, and soccer and volleyball will be able to return July 1 – and that will be the first time Oklahoma State’s loaded recruiting class would be allowed to work together in Stillwater.
Via a tweet Wednesday, several Cowboys are already doing some work in Dallas while they are not permitted on campus. Incoming signees Cade Cunningham and Matthew Alexander-Moncrieffe – the top recruit out of Canada – were shown working out with returning starter Isaac Likekele.
“I’ll tell you I'm not a doctor – don't ever claim to be one,” Boynton said Monday. “I actually always lean on our trainers for that information.
“I do think we're trying to put in a plan, and was having conversations with our players and their parents this week on what that plan is to make sure that first and foremost these kids are safe. And any of them who don't feel safe, we’re not making come back.”
Oklahoma State has confirmed three football players tested positive in the first wave of returning athletes, but have not made known how many student-athletes have tested positive for COVID-19 among all players tested in June.
While three – and perhaps more – among 80 players for football is but a drop in the bucket, if basketball were to have three players test positive and have to go into quarantine, that could be a massive setback for a sport that is only allowed 13 scholarship athletes.
“We want them to know that they're going to have a safe environment,” Boynton said. “I think there's a testing procedure in place, and without being able to get into too many specifics, I do know that that's the first priority of our staff and our administration is to make sure that our players, our staff are in a safe environment where we can still continue to work together and get better and put ourselves in position to have a season, sometime this winter.”
Boynton said he is hopeful to provide more specifics on what plan is in place for basketball athletes the closer they get to July 15.
His players may not be on campus for another three weeks, but the staff has been working at times from campus since NCAA and Big 12 Conference mandates lifted in the past month.
“We're still not like full-time working at the office. We come in and in our public areas, we wear masks and in our kind of private office areas, you know, that's kind of a personal choice,” said Boynton, who showcased an OSU face mask he’s been wearing in the office and in public. “It's always encouraged wearing a mask in the presence of people where you can’t continue to keep a good distance from.
“So we just try to follow the guidelines that are put in place by the people who know more about this stuff than I do. And so, I'm not here to tell anybody what to do. I enjoy, wearing my mask – got a nice pretty OSU one that I literally took off to talk to you guys. I wear it out about town, and I just think this is a responsible thing for me to do – set an example for my family first and then maybe for other people in the community as well.”
Boynton, and all college athletic coaches, will face the fine line of trying to keep their athletes safe from the virus while still allowing them to be college kids.
It’s steps the Cowboy coach is already taking with his players while they are not on campus.
“I wrestle with that every day, partly because these are 18- or 19-year-old kids,” Boynton said. “Many times when we were 18, 19 years old, the moment we were told that we couldn't do something, we were going to try to figure out how we actually could. And that's not different now. So kids take chances. What we have to try to do is help them understand the severity and the risk that, not for them, but for other people that they may encounter. …
“So just constantly reminding them that hygiene is important. It is not the time to go out to the bars and party, we have to stay focused on doing our part, individually, to mitigate whatever the exposure is that our team has the other teams have, or other teams on campus have and the other people in our community have.”