If there’s one thing that everyone in the Pac-12 and all of college football can agree on, it’s that the 2021 season won’t have the disruptions that happened last year due to the pandemic.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham addressed this in his opening comments at Pac-12 Media Day earlier this week.
“It’s great to be back to live Media Day,” he said. “Most years I wouldn’t say that, but after last year’s debacle and challenges, it is great to be back here in some sense of normalcy.”
A year ago, the Pac-12 didn’t kick off its season until November due to the pandemic. Utah played just five games as part of its 2020 schedule.
There’s hope that games will not have to be canceled this season because so many coaches and players have been vaccinated.
New Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said Tuesday that nine of the league’s 12 schools are requiring vaccinations for all students. He added that two-thirds of the teams have already achieved more than 80% of their players being vaccinated. Half of those, he added, are above 90%.
“We’re very proud of that,” Kliavkoff said. “We have been strongly encouraging everyone to get vaccinated.”
But if there are COVID-19-related issues, like last season, Kliavkoff said the conference could return to the pre-COVID forfeit policy if a school can’t field a team. That determination won’t be made until mid-August.
Utah wide receiver Britain Covey has been encouraging his teammates who are unvaccinated to find accurate information about the vaccine.
“I am an advocate for getting the vaccine. I’ve been able to talk to a lot of my (teammates). ... I think reasonable skepticism about something like that is totally normal. We’ve had a lot of players that were skeptical about it,” he said. “It’s been interesting to talk to them and help find the resources to help them feel more comfortable with it.”
Covey said he has a cousin who is currently at Harvard University and part of a team researching the vaccine.
“She’s helped me a lot by sending me articles that give guys confidence,” he said. “With something like that, there’s going to be a lot of misinformation that goes around that can scare you. I don’t know everything, of course, but I always side with the majority of health officials. I think it’s important that our team gets it.”
Ute linebacker Devin Lloyd is also concerned about what might happen if teammates choose not to get vaccinated.
“It’s definitely important because you never know how things might pan out with more stricter areas like L.A., for example. They could say that only vaccinated guys can travel,” he said. “You don’t want to have to deal with how it was last season. If you’re vaccinated, then contact tracing can knock you out. Or if you do test positive, you have to be knocked out for 10-14 days. It’s not a deal you want to handle. It’s definitely important to emphasize that.”
Washington State coach Nick Rolovich did not attend Pac-12 media day in person because there was a vaccination requirement for coaches and players to participate. Rolovich did address the media, and fielded questions, via Zoom.
He explained that his reason for not being vaccinated will remain private while emphasizing that he and his team will follow the protocols recommended by health and school officials.
“I’m not against vaccinations, and I wholeheartedly support those who choose to get vaccinated,” Rolovich said. He added that 75% of his players have been vaccinated and he said he encourages everyone to consider being vaccinated.