Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby went on the record about the COVID-19 vaccine at Big 12 Football media day in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday.
While addressing reporters he said concerns about the virus have not diminished and protocols would remain in place for the 2021 football season. “The Delta Variant is real…not getting the COVID vaccine is rolling the dice and taking an unnecessary and unwarranted risk,” Bowlsby noted.
Which prompts the question of how many college football games will be canceled due to COVID-19 in 2021? If Bowlsby has a say on the matter, hopefully none with the situation being avoidable.
“We are certainly — as we go forward — encouraging student-athletes to get vaccinated, and in doing that, to minimize the impact that the Delta variant will have on our activities,” Bowlsby said. “I think the Delta variant may, indeed, be a blessing for us because it punctuates the fact that we’re not done with this yet.”
Bowlsby went on to say the Big 12 won’t mandate the vaccine, but rather will back individual schools who plan to require all students to be vaccinated. He also said unvaccinated players will be required to be tested far more frequently for virus throughout the season.
“It’s early in the process. We have always thought that viruses were more prevalent during late fall and through the winter. And so, you know, if indeed the Delta variant is as virulent and as infectious as it’s been reported to be, not getting vaccinated, you’re rolling the dice in terms of whether you’ll contract the virus.”
Athletic departments across the country have made the decision to fill stadiums next year without social distancing or capacity limits. However, with the virus not eradicated, Bowlsby made it clear plans to fully open for 2021 weren’t 100 percent a-go. And while the conference is planning for a return to normal next season, if the past eighteen months taught us anything it is that plans can be altered.
“In the end, these kinds of decisions have always been made on a local basis, local health officials, in some cases governors’ offices,” Bowlsby said. “But if we get to a point where public assembly is ill-advised because of a spike in the variant, it’s not inconceivable we would go back and try and revisit those things on an institutional basis or collectively.”
The college football season opens on Saturday, Aug. 28 with five games on the schedule. North Carolina faces an ACC road opener against Virginia Tech on Friday, Sept. 3 (6 PM ET/TV:ESPN).