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. 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-19 shutdown, has not revealed a vaccination rate in any public comments the Hotline was able to locate.
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 initially declined to get vaccinated, citing reasons that will remain private. However, a vaccine mandate by Washington governor Jay Inslee has left Rolovich with no choice, and he told reporters Thursday that he planned to get vaccinated.
“For sure,” he said.
Arizona announced Thursday night that the team is 100% vaccinated, posting to Twitter that "our players, our staff and all who are affiliated with our program have worked very hard to accomplish this goal." Coach Jedd Fisch announced two weeks ago that the team was at 97%.
"We take our healthy very seriously, and we are committed to a 12-game season and beyond," the UA posted. "We are also committed to staying healthy and are hopeful that campus can follow our lead."
UCLA, 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. Colorado is 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 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. And 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.