College Football Preview

Vaccination rates to dictate narrative of college football season

Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss have been leaders on the vaccination front, with the team achieving a 100% rate GETTY IMAGES

The rescheduled games and no-contests connected to the pandemic-impacted '20 college football season "have all but vanished for 2021 so the games go on and the money keeps flowing," according to Alan Blinder of the N.Y. TIMES. Now there are "largely unforgiving policies intended to keep players and coaches safe and furious efforts inside locker rooms to persuade young men to be inoculated so they can more likely stay on the field." The results have "often been robust, with many teams vaccinated at higher rates than their surrounding communities." Arizona, Boston College and Ole Miss have reported 100% vaccination rates among football players; "at least half of the teams ranked in the top 10 of The Associated Press preseason poll have said that 90 percent or more of their players are inoculated." And in a stark departure from last year, when many athletic programs tried to keep their virus case counts out of public view, schools are "sometimes celebrating their vaccination rates to the envy of their rivals." It has been a monthslong "high-wire act, complicated by rampant misinformation about vaccines and worries about potential overreach by schools that already have enormous influence over athletes’ lives." Georgia Exec Associate AD/Sports Medicine Ron Courson said, "What we found out early on was that everybody has different concerns and if we could find out and identify the concern they have, that's the best way to approach it" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/3).

TEAM EFFORT: In Montgomery, Melissa Brown noted Alabama state health officials have "recruited colleges to host COVID-19 vaccination campaigns ahead of football games this fall, with fans eligible for $75 voucher incentives on game days." Thirteen colleges in the state "will participate in the program, including the University of Alabama and Auburn University." Each school "will host an on-site vaccination clinic at one home game this season," and the program "will also open a platform for people to upload proof of vaccination up to 14 days before the game." Bruno Event Team CEO Gene Hallman said that participants "will receive a $75 voucher redeemable at the college book store as a 'thank you.'" The state has "previously trailed all others in vaccination rates" (MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER, 9/3).

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