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On Monday, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said there were six teams in the conference that are at least 80% vaccinated. Alabama is one of them.
Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban told reporters Wednesday at SEC Media Days that “pretty close to 90%” of his team is vaccinated. Saban explained how he approached his players about the subject, and how getting the vaccine can serve as a competitive advantage ahead of the 2021 football season.
“We have a majority of our players who have gotten the vaccine, and we’ve given every player on our team the choice to do that. You have a personal decision, which comes down to risk — risk of COVID and relative risk to the vaccine,” Saban said.
Saban said he explained to his players that their individual choices can have a dramatic impact on the team as a whole. He gave the example of the NC State baseball team, which made a deep run into the College World Series only to have its national title hopes dashed when COVID-19 cases on the roster forced a forfeit.
“You have a competitive decision to make because you’re going to be part of a team. How does the personal choice and decision you make affect the team? There’s been a couple examples in baseball that has had a huge effect and impact on teams. There was North Carolina State in the College World Series. They maybe had an opportunity to win the national championship, and because of their circumstance with COVID, the whole issue created a circumstance where they couldn’t continue to play,” Saban said.
Saban said the program has brought in “three medical doctors” to speak to the team “about the pros and the cons” of getting the vaccine. Saban was clear that getting the vaccine gives you a better chance of being on the field on Saturdays.
“Every player has a personal decision to make to evaluate the risk of COVID relative to the vaccine and then they have a competitive decision to make on how it impacts their ability to play in games, because with the vaccine you probably have a better chance. Without it, you have a bigger chance that something could happen that may keep you from being on the field,” Saban said.
For teams that reach 85% vaccinated, they no longer are subjected to frequent testing and indoor mask mandates. Sankey said Monday that teams unable to field a roster due to virus issues could be forced to forfeit. Last season, roster minimums were in place and time was added to the end of the season to accommodate postponements.
Saban on name, image and likeness
Saban made headlines from the Texas High School Coaches Association on Tuesday, where he noted that Alabama quarterback Bryce Young has signed nearly $1 million worth of name, image and likeness deals already.
“Our quarterback already has approached ungodly numbers. I’m not going to say what they are. He hasn’t even played yet. He hasn’t been a starter. If I told you what he’s … it’s almost 7-figures,” Saban said per 247Sports.
Saban wasn’t specifically asked about Young’s situation on Wednesday, but was asked more generally about this new era of college athletics where athletes can earn income via endorsements. Saban did not want to make any predictions about how NIL payments will impact college football as a whole.
“Anything that I say now, because there’s no precedent for it, you don’t really know how it’s going to affect things,” Saban said.
Saban knows these opportunities won’t be equal throughout a team’s roster. Young, a heralded quarterback who has yet to start a game, is a great example of that.
“Everything that we’ve done in college athletics in the past has always been equal. Everybody’s had equal scholarship, equal opportunity. Now that’s probably not going to be the case,” Saban said. “Some positions, some players will have more opportunities than others. And how that’s going to impact your team, our team, the players on the team, I really can’t answer because we don’t have any precedent for it.”
At this point, Saban said the focus is making sure his team is educated on the various opportunities that could lie ahead.
“We’re doing the best we can to try to get our players to understand the circumstance they’re in, the opportunity they have, and how those opportunities are not going to be equal for everybody,” Saban said. “It will be important for our team’s success that people are not looking over their shoulder at what somebody else does or doesn’t do.”
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