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How will coronavirus affect Tennessee football spring practice, Orange & White Game?

The Tennessee football team remains scheduled for spring practice on Thursday, even as sporting events around the globe are canceled in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Spring football practices are at the discretion of the individual institutions,” SEC spokesman Chuck Dunlap said in an email to Knox News on Thursday.

Tennessee did cancel its football player media availability scheduled for Thursday.

The SEC on Thursday suspended regular-season games for all sports teams on SEC campuses, as well SEC championship events, through the end of March.

That includes the SEC men’s basketball tournament, which was canceled Thursday, but does not apply to NCAA championship events or spring football practice.

The Vols’ spring game remains scheduled for April 18 (4 p.m. ET) at Neyland Stadium.

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Schools like Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, Cincinnati and Kent State have canceled their spring games. Some schools also have implemented recruiting restrictions.

No SEC schools have announced cancellations of spring practice or spring games.

Tennessee opened spring practice on Tuesday and is slated for Thursday practice before a scheduled interruption from practice until March 24 in observance of spring break. 

“I believe in our administration here,” Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt said after Tuesday’s practice. “Whatever precautions they take, we’ll follow.”

Tennessee’s sports medicine staff has been taking precautions to ensure the safety of Vols athletes.

“Our sports medicine staff, in conjunction with colleagues across the conference, has been monitoring the situation for several weeks and has implemented enhanced precautionary measures in its day-to-day operations,” athletic department spokesman Tom Satkowiak said Wednesday in an email to Knox News.

“Information related to preventative measures also was distributed earlier this week to student-athletes, coaches and staff. Additionally, members of the (athletic department’s) senior leadership team are in frequent communication with the university’s Office of Emergency Management.”

The coronavirus pandemic resulted in UT-Knoxville canceling in-person classes and offering them online beginning March 23 through at least April 3. Athletes may be permitted to get a waiver to remain on campus during that period.

The university is on spring break next week.

UT previously had canceled all non-essential, out-of-state travel for faculty and staff. The travel restriction does not apply to UT’s sports teams, which practiced and competed without interruption until Thursday.

At this time, no cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, have been reported at the university.

As of Wednesday, there had been nine cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Tennessee: five in Williamson County, two in Davidson County, and one each in Sullivan and Shelby counties. The coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday, as the number of cases in the U.S. rose above 1,000.

The News Sentinel’s Monica Kast contributed to this story.

Blake Toppmeyer covers University of Tennessee football. Email him at blake.toppmeyer@knoxnews.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it. Current subscribers can click here to join Blake’s FREE text group offering updates and analysis on Vols football.

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