College coaches, administrators urging players to vaccinate

HOOVER, Ala. — Over the summer, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban urged his fellow Alabama residents to get vaccinated against the coronavirus in a public service announcement.

The thinking was that one of the most popular people in Alabama might help since the state has one of the lowest percentages of vaccinated people in the nation. The video shows cheerleaders, the Big Al mascot and scenes from Bryant-Denny Stadium with the unmistakable message: Protection against COVID-19 can help everyone get back to normal.

It is also a point of emphasis for the defending national champion Crimson Tide and every other team hoping to minimize the risk of impacts from COVID-19 this season after last year’s disrupted effort that saw dozens of games postponed or canceled.

It’s a priority, and in some cases a challenge. Universities are struggling with whether they can legally require students to be vaccinated before returning to campuses, though Notre Dame, Michigan, UCLA, Washington and others have taken that step.

Many others, certainly across the South, have not, leaving coaches like Saban to emphasize that vaccination decisions are a personal choice, but one that can impact the team.

In the Southeastern Conference, Commissioner Greg Sankey said this week that six of the 14 football teams have at least 80% of their roster vaccinated — a number that”needs to grow and grow rapidly.”

The six teams include Alabama since Saban indicated “pretty close to 90%” of his players are fully vaccinated, nearly triple the rate for the state’s overall population.

Not every coach or program divulged their numbers at their respective leagues’ media days. The ones that did varied fairly widely.

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Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said his team was about 55% vaccinated as of six weeks ago.

“I don’t know where we’re at now,” Gundy said last week. “But as an individual, they have to make a decision if that’s something they want to do. We all know the pros and cons of it.”

The cons, besides personal health, include missing at least 10 days of practice and games in quarantine. And the chore of regular testing. Players who don’t get vaccinated likely face multiple COVID-19 tests weekly, just like last season.

“I think that conflict of sticking something up your nose three times a week, all the headaches of wearing a mask, I think it wears people out,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “I don’t want anything to do with it.”

Coaches like Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Saban can point to other sports to emphasize the potential impact of not getting vaccinated. Saban, who missed the game against rival Auburn last year after a positive COVID-19 test, points to the New York Yankees having six players recently sidelined by the coronavirus and North Carolina State having to drop out of the College World Series.

“So every player has a personal decision to make to evaluate the risk of COVID relative to vaccine, and then they have a competitive decision to make on how it impacts their ability to play in games, because with the vaccine you probably have a better chance,” Saban said. “Without it, you have …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports

      

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