GAC announces its return-to-play protocols

Herald Democrat

The Great American Conference announced its Council of Presidents approved a series of return to play protocols that the league will implement in January in conjunction with the start of the basketball season.

The Council agreed to not allow any fans for the first two weeks of games. They will look to reconsider following the games played on Saturday, January 16. At that point they would look to allow up to 25 percent of venue capacity to attend games. Venues will utilize a 12-foot buffer zone to separate fans from student-athletes and game personnel.

Teams must have seven healthy players to compete. Teams with six or fewer players due to positive tests or contact tracing will not be able to participate, resulting in a no-contest. Teams must play 50 percent (10 games) of their scheduled contests to gain eligibility for the GAC Championships.

All personnel, student-athletes and spectators will properly wear face coverings. The lone exemptions from this requirement go to players and officials actively participating in the contest.

Outside media remains welcome to attend all GAC contests but they must file for a credential 48 hours before a game. Institutions will grant passes based on space availability, current health conditions and campus rules. Visiting radio will have top priority in awarding credentials.

Game day personnel will place into three tiers. Tier 1 consists of officials, student-athletes, coaches and athletic training staff. Tier 2 features athletic department staff, security staff and event staff while transportation support and media members make up Tier 3. Only individuals in Tier 1 and Tier 2 will have access to locker rooms, athletic training spaces, and court areas. Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals need to avoid all public areas.

Each school bears the responsibility of compiling a visitors’ guide document. That guide will contain the information regarding which entrance to use when entering and exiting the facility, any screening requirements needed before entry, availability of a locker room or meeting space, protocol for the use of the athletic training facility, availability of tickets for visiting fans as well as broadcast location for visiting radio and what type of connection is available.

The league’s basketball season will feature a 20-game divisional schedule with an opening night slated for Thursday, January 7 with six doubleheaders — Arkansas Tech at Arkansas-Monticello, Southwestern Oklahoma State at East Central, Ouachita at Harding, Southern Arkansas at Henderson State, Southern Nazarene at Northwestern Oklahoma State and Southeastern Oklahoma State at Oklahoma Baptist.

The GAC will continue to evaluate NCAA, federal, state and local developments and provide updated revisions as further information becomes available.