Temple Athletics grapples with COVID-19 protocols

Temple University’s basketball program had eight postponements due to COVID-19 related issues this past month.

(From right to left) Monte Ross, associate head coach, Chris Clark, assistant coach and Raheem Mapp, director of men's basketball operations, stand on the court sideline during a men's basketball game at the Liacouras Center. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Across the United States, more than 150 college basketball programs in the NCAA have paused their programs this past month due to recent spikes in positive COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant. Though a pause has not yet been necessary, Temple University Athletics has still faced the brunt of COVID-19 this season with eight postponements in Temple’s basketball programs. 

“When they travel, we’ve asked [student-athletes] to wear KN95, or double mask, because the new variant is so contagious we try to take those precautions,” said Lee Roberts, senior associate athletic director of facilities and event management. “We asked them to be very cognizant of their environment.”

While four postponements were due to other programs going into COVID-19 protocol, Temple Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director Jessica Reo, along with the rest of the Temple Athletics staff, met prior to student-athletes returning from winter break because of the increase in positive cases, she said. 

Reo, who is in charge of implementing COVID-19 guidelines for Temple Athletics, evaluated current COVID-19 procedures in Philadelphia, the NCAA and The American Athletic Conference with Temple’s athletic doctor to determine how Temple Athletics should approach COVID-19 mitigation within the program, she added. 

With 97 percent of Temple Athletics vaccinated and most of the guidelines remaining the same from Fall 2021, Reo and the staff needed to determine the safest return for all student-athletes and how to manage a breakthrough case to avoid any program pauses, Reo said. 


Upon returning to Temple’s campus, all student-athletes and staff, vaccinated or unvaccinated, took a polymerase chain reaction and antigen test, which were distributed by Temple’s athletic trainers, Reo said.

“Our decision to test our student-athletes was made just after consultation with our doctor so that we could make a decision to put our kids in the safest light as they returned,” Reo added. 

If a student-athlete’s test comes back negative, they can return to their normal practice schedule, said Kevin Addison, associate director of athletic training. 

During the return to campus, Addison and his staff encouraged all student-athletes to not hang out with friends and isolate themselves in their dorms for an accurate test result, he added.  

Following the one-time test, vaccinated student-athletes and staff do not require additional testing, unless they come in contact with a person who is positive for COVID-19, Reo said.

Those who are unvaccinated must continue abiding by Temple and the NCAA policies, which require testing twice a week through Temple Student Health Services and 24 hours before competition, Reo added.


The NCAA still requires unvaccinated athletes who test positive to quarantine for five days without participation, then five additional days of wearing a mask. An athlete could be considered eligible to participate during days six through 10 following a negative PCR or antigen test. 

If a fully vaccinated student-athlete or staff member tests positive, they automatically have to isolate for five days. In the fall, if a vaccinated athlete tested positive for COVID-19, they would quarantine for 10 days after their first positive test, Reo said.

Temple’s athletic trainers notify teams when an athlete tests positive then begin contact tracing, which starts with the student-athletes’ roommates and anyone they have seen in the past 24 to 48 hour period from the initial test, Addison added. 

Once the five-day period is over, the student-athletes or staff who tested positive will be evaluated by Temple’s athletic trainers during the next five days to see if symptoms have subsided. If a student-athlete is no longer showing symptoms, they can return to practices, Addison said. 

“Somebody who’s symptom-free or as we say, asymptomatic, may just be five days, and we’ll start transitioning them back day six, seven and eight for practice,” Addison said. “But if someone had a fever on day six, that transition is a little bit slower.”

Some student-athletes who transition back to practices after day five have done individual workouts or a smaller group practice, but Temple’s trainers still monitor their symptoms, Addison added.

“We’re taking a little bit more of a case by case basis,” Reo said. “It depends on whether they’re vaccinated or not, whether they have their booster or they don’t have their booster.”

Each sport has certain procedures for student-athletes returning to practice following day five, Addison said. Gymnastics may do individual practices and basketball may do individual drills before they go back to practicing with the full team. 

“Now it’s more of just monitoring your symptoms and finding out when their symptoms subside,” Addison said. “We tried to map it out when they can return to the sport.”


Each conference has set guidelines for how many players a team needs to safely compete in each sport. In The American, a program could compete with seven scholarship players on a basketball team. 

“That’s something that we’re taking into account to shut down the whole program if we had like a plethora of numerous cases,” Addison said. “Once you do contact tracing, one person that’s been around 20 people you could potentially have 20 other positive cases.” 

If a team doesn’t have enough scholarship players to compete due to COVID-19 protocols, they would be forced to place a pause on the program and postpone games until a later date, but games are not required to be rescheduled.

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