With the NCAA’s decision to lift the moratorium on voluntary workouts for three major sports, UNC athletics is in a position to make tentative plans for the return of sports in the fall.
On May 20, the NCAA D1 Council voted to grant permission to Division 1 schools to begin voluntary workouts for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball teams. The decision clears student-athletes from these three sports to return to campus starting on June 1.
Currently, the North Carolina football team is scheduled for opening kickoff on Sept. 4 against Central Florida in Orlando. Men’s and women’s basketball have not yet announced official schedules.
Planning for the 2020 season includes not only gathering recruits — as teams have been doing — but also operating under the NCAA’s announcements of workouts and following social distancing protocols.
The state of North Carolina is currently in Phase 2, which limits gatherings indoors to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 25. The NCAA did not give clear guidelines for the number of coaches, players or faculty who are allowed to be present for these workouts.
“Allowing for voluntary athletics activity acknowledges that reopening our campuses will be an individual decision but should be based on advice from medical experts," Council chairperson M. Grace Calhoun said in an NCAA press release.
Athletes who return to the campus for these workouts will have an early start to new campus protocols, even if they return after June 1. It is unclear if athletes are going to be able to live on campus if voluntary workouts are held at UNC.
North Carolina’s football and basketball teams have key seasons ahead of them.
While football could be delayed for the start of the 2020 season, no official decision has been made. Despite the uncertainty, however, the football team has remained active. North Carolina has continued to sign a barrage of highly touted recruits, including three-star wide receiver JJ Jones on May 21. Currently, the team’s recruiting class for the upcoming season is ranked No. 4 nationally according to 247Sports.
The team is expected to make a big jump from its 2019 campaign, which included a winning record and a Military Bowl victory, UNC's first bowl win since 2013.
UNC’s men’s basketball team will need to take advantage of its clean slate this coming season. The team experienced a disappointing season mired with injuries, finishing with a 14-19 record. Despite these struggles, UNC has gathered the No. 2 national recruiting class for the upcoming season according to 247Sports. With more consistency in the rotation, the Tar Heels can certainly bounce back if the season resumes in some fashion.
North Carolina’s women’s basketball team looks to make strides this year as well. After a strong start, the team began to struggle and lost its final eight games, finishing with a 16-14 record. With senior Janelle Bailey and sophomore Malu Tshitenge returning, North Carolina bought in McDonald's All-American Deja Kelly and four other nationally ranked recruits. This increase in depth will help the Tar Heels immensely, considering the loss of their leading scorer, Taylor Koenen.
While more details should follow the NCAA’s announcement, UNC’s athletic program has been given a sense of clarity on how to move forward for the first time since winter and spring competition was canceled in March.
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