Vaccinated players in the Mountain West Conference will get more leeway

·4 min read

Jul. 22—LAS VEGAS — The Mountain West Conference is poised to implement separate protocols for football players who received the COVID-19 vaccines and those who did not.

In his state-of the-league address at Wednesday's Mountain West Football Media Days, commissioner Craig Thompson said the health and safety advisory committee is recommending greater freedom for vaccinated players. The University of Hawaii is a football-only member of the MWC.

During the 2020 football season, players were tested three times in the week leading to games, sequestered in hotel rooms on road trips, and quarantined for contact tracing, Under the new measure, vaccinated players will not have to wear masks or undergo testing. Unvaccinated players still would have to abide by the old restrictions.

What's more, the unvaccinated player or his school would be responsible for paying for the tests—one PCR or three antigen tests each week. Last season, the Mountain West used its reserve fund to foot the $4-million cost of testing. Thompson said the league will no longer do that.

A team that does not have enough players for a league game because of positive tests or contact tracing will be forced to forfeit. Last year, those undermanned games were canceled or postponed. It has not been determined if the forfeiting team would be required to cover the opposing team's expenses.

"Last year, there was no vaccine, " Thompson said. "Last year, there was not a choice to be made. There will be consequences if you're not able to participate as a team."

According to a league survey, 73 % of Mountain West football players have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Thompson said seven of the 12 teams had a vaccination rate of 88 % or better.

UH coach Todd Graham, who has received the full dosage, said he is advocating vaccinations for his players.

"We're encouraging our players to get vaccinated for their health and safety, " Graham said. "If you don't, you're putting our opportunity to play a season in jeopardy. We've encouraged our guys to get vaccinated. It's a personal decision for each one of them. We're working through all that."

San Jose State coach Brent Brennan said he leaves the vaccination decision to each player.

"I have no judgment, " Brennan said. "You want to get it, great. If you don't, great. It's not for me to decide. My job is to help us move forward. And how do we best move forward ? I think it's by being vaccinated. Just experiencing the fallout from a couple positives and massive contact tracing, that makes it challenging."

Nevada coach Jay Norvell hopes his team will consider the greater good.

"When you play a team sport and you have to function in tight quarters with 150 people, you just have to make some decisions to help keep yourself safe and your teammates safe, " Norvell said. "In our sport, we give up our own personal feelings all the time to be a part of something other than ourselves. I think this is part of it. As a coach, all I can do is listen to what the medical professionals tell me. We have to set up an environment that's going to keep everybody safe. We're encouraging all our players and staff to get vaccinated. We're hoping to get as many people vaccinated before the season starts."

A report from Colorado noted 95 % of patients hospitalized because of he coronavirus were not vaccinated.

"If you're not vaccinated, you're more at risk to get the virus and pass the virus, " Norvell added. "We're going to be forced to have different protocols for players and staff who aren't vaccinated. ... That's where we're headed. The bottom line is we had a whole year going through a pandemic. We didn't have the vaccine. We have the vaccine now. The bottom line is if you're vaccinated, you're not going to miss games. But if you choose not to get vaccinated, you're at risk. That's going to affect decisions coaches are going to have to make."—For more Hawaii football, visit the.

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