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USC’s announcement of on-campus classes in fall could boost football’s return

USC coach Clay Helton celebrates after a 52-35 win over UCLA on Nov. 23 at the Coliseum.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

USC will open its campus for in-person classes in the fall, presumably clearing the way for the Trojans’ football season to forge ahead in spite of the lingering threat of COVID-19.

In a letter to the campus community Tuesday, USC President Dr. Carol Folt wrote that the university plans to start its fall semester Aug. 17, a week earlier than previously scheduled. The semester is slated to end by Thanksgiving, a full three weeks earlier than expected, in hopes of minimizing the impact of the virus as flu season is in full force.

The return to campus marks a long-awaited return to normalcy for students at the university. But when they’re finally able to return to USC, beginning Aug. 10, the campus probably will appear anything but normal.

Classes are expected to be a mix of online and in-person, with most at least offering the option of an online component. Face coverings will be required throughout campus. Facilities will be reconfigured, in order to accommodate for physical distancing.

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The plans were announced even as Los Angeles County remains under a stay-at-home order, with several restrictions still in place.

Folt’s letter did not offer an earlier return date for student-athletes to campus. Last week, the Pac-12 Conference announced that it would allow athletes to return to the conference’s respective campuses for voluntary workouts as early as June 15. But USC has remained mum on when it plans to welcome them back.

USC athletic director Mike Bohn said in an interview last month that he believed student-athletes would be safer on campus than anywhere else.

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“I’m convinced of that,” Bohn said. “I think we can monitor that and do a great job of keeping them safe.”

How much monitoring that will require remains to be seen. But with USC slated to open its entire campus in August, student-athletes could offer a test case of sorts for what life on campus might look like come fall.

USC will bring students back to campus this fall, with online and in-person classes and more spacing in dorms as safety measures amid the coronavirus crisis, President Carol L. Folt announced Tuesday.

“We’re going to have to figure out how often do we want to test [for COVID-19],” Bohn said in the same interview. “But more importantly, we want to monitor groups of student-athletes — where they eat, where they work out, where they lift weights, where they live, dorm rooms, number of student-athletes per restroom, all those different pieces of the protocols. It’s extensive.”

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That protocol will be especially complicated for USC’s football program. But signs seem to point toward a return by the end of June, which would put USC on schedule to start the season on time.

USC coach Clay Helton said last month that his team would require a minimum of four weeks of ramp-up, in addition to a four-week training camp in the fall before starting the season. Several other Pac-12 coaches suggested they would need at least six weeks total.

USC is set to open the season against Alabama at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 5.


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