Iowa men's basketball program reaches 100% COVID vaccination rate
On Tuesday, Iowa men's basketball made some unexpected news by revealing that its program has reached a 100% vaccination rate against COVID-19.
The Hawkeyes' official Twitter account announced that trainer Brad Floy was reporting that "every player, coach, student manager and support staff associated with the program has been vaccinated ... since the start of summer workouts."
That would amount to around 30 total vaccinations, counting 13 scholarship players, walk-ons, managers, coaches and others affiliated with day-to-day program operations.
Growing speculation about how COVID protocols in 2021 would differ than in 2020 has caused concern for college athletics administrators. During football media days over the last few weeks, COVID vaccination rates dominated the conversation.
Last week, Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said "not quite 70%" of those in his program had received a COVID-19 vaccination. That number was on the low end of what coaches were reporting at Big Ten Media Days. Northwestern, for example, was between 90 and 95%. Wisconsin was at 85%. Michigan was in the "high 90s."
At SEC Media Days, where six of the 14 teams have reached the 80% threshold, commissioner Greg Sankey said, unlike last season, games will no longer be rescheduled in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak on a team before a scheduled game.
This means a team could forfeit a game due to an outbreak during the season. Last year, games not rescheduled were declared a "no-contest."
In the Big 12, commissioner Bob Bowlsby opened his media day session urging all student-athletes to get vaccinated to avoid reverting back to the challenges and hurdles that plagued athletics in 2020.
The Big Ten is still building their policy. On June 6, at the semiannual meeting with university chancellors and presidents, they voted to allow all schools to craft their own policies. Individual school policies will coincide with Big Ten policies and are expected to be finalized in early August, according to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren.
Across the Power 5 spectrum, it's fair to assume there will be similar policies in place regarding team forfeits if a game cannot be rescheduled due to an outbreak. Warren said all conferences are regularly speaking to each other about the issue.
"One of the things we have been fortunate about is that I have weekly calls with the other (Power 5) commissioners," Warren said. "We communicate with each other. We're in this together. We're all in this together. So we'll continually communicate and do the best thing for our college athletics."
Iowa basketball won't officially tip off until early November. There will be a set policy in place by then, but the Hawkeyes' 100% vaccination rate means training is unlikely to be impacted by COVID-19. Those who are vaccinated no longer have to participate in weekly testing.
Does higher vaccination rates equal a competitive advantage? It very well could if teams are forced to forfeit or play short-handed due to outbreaks.
"We’re trying our best to let (teammates) have freedom in it. But at the end of the day, we want to be a championship-level team," Iowa wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr said at Big Ten Media Days. "We can't be a championship level team if we have 10 guys in quarantine and another 10 that are out just because they were next to them."
Kennington Smith is the new Iowa Hawkeyes beat writer for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org