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Sports >  NCAA football

Pac-12 vs. COVID: Vaccination rates climb as season approaches, with at least seven teams hitting the 90% mark

Aug. 18, 2021 Updated Wed., Aug. 18, 2021 at 8:23 p.m.

By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

Two weeks from the 2021 season, the majority of Pac-12 football programs are approaching a COVID vaccination rate that could limit the disruption caused by the delta variant.

At least seven teams have reached or surpassed the 90% mark, while two more have topped 85%, according to data provided to the Hotline by the schools.

The vaccination rates for Arizona State and Cal were not made available.

Of the 10 schools for which data is available, Washington State has the lowest rate: The Cougars have vaccinated 80% of their players, according to a school spokesperson.

WSU coach Nick Rolovich has declined to get vaccinated, citing reasons that will remain private. (As a result of Wednesday’s new Washington state mandate, the Cougars football coach may be required to get one, or else lose his job.)

At the other end of the spectrum is UCLA, which has a vaccination rate of 98% – a notable development because the Bruins have an earlier deadline than everyone else: Their season opener is Aug. 28, one week before the rest of the conference.

Arizona is close behind, with 97% of the roster vaccinated, followed by Colorado at 94.5%.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes is the number one priority of the Pac-12 and our athletic programs,” Merton Hanks, the conference’s head of football operations, told the Hotline via email.

“We have consistently focused on education and encouraged vaccinations. It’s a great credit to our football programs, coaches and student-athletes that our football vaccination rates are very strong. Our football student-athletes continue to take the steps to reduce risk as we prepare for a full, competitive schedule in 2021.”

The following data was provided by the schools.

In some cases, a specific figure was not available, but the university was able to confirm a percentage range.

UCLA: 98%

Arizona: 97%

Washington: above 95%

Colorado: 94.5%

Oregon: 90% to 95%

Utah: above 90%

USC: above 90%

Oregon State: 88%

Stanford: 85%

Washington State: 80%

Arizona State: not available

Cal: not available

(See below for important disclosures on the data.)

The rates are significant from a health-and-safety standpoint, of course, but also for financial and competitive reasons.

Each game broadcast on ESPN or Fox is worth approximately $6 million for the conference; If a team is unable to play, the loss of revenue will be shared equally – about $500,000 per school.

Unlike last year, when canceled games were recorded as no-contests, commissioner George Kliavkoff has the authority to declare forfeitures this fall.

Per a statement from the conference:

“If an institution is unable to play a contest through its own fault, it shall forfeit such contest to its opponent. Any forfeited contest shall be regarded as a conference loss for the team making the forfeit and a conference win for its opponent.

“The Pac-12 rule provides the Commissioner with discretion to determine whether an institution is at fault or primarily at fault for an inability to play a contest based on the facts of the situation.”

Put another way:

If a team cannot play because of COVID and didn’t take the proper precautions, then it likely will be slapped with a loss.

Disclosures:

I: The figure cited for USC was taken from public comments made recently by coach Clay Helton. According to an athletic department spokesperson, the Trojans are “100% compliant with the university’s vaccine policy.” That policy allows for exceptions for medical and religious reasons.

II: ASU cited university policy in declining to provide vaccination data. Coach Herm Edwards, whose program is under NCAA investigation for alleged recruiting violations during the COVID shutdown, has not revealed a vaccination rate in any public comments the Hotline was able to locate.

III: Cal declined to provide team-specific vaccination data, a disappointing stance from a university that claims to value transparency and was willing to release its team-specific COVID testing data last year. Coach Justin Wilcox said recently that his program is vaccinated “almost completely.”

Additionally, an athletic department spokesperson said all players are “in compliance with UC Berkeley’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements.”

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