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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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SEC changes forfeiture guidelines, encourages athlete vaccination

The+Southeastern+Conference+released+the+2022+football+schedule+on+Tuesday%2C+Sept.+21+with+Texas+A%26amp%3BMs+schedule+set+to+feature+three+back-to-back+home+games.%26%23160%3B
Photo by Abbey Santoro

The Southeastern Conference released the 2022 football schedule on Tuesday, Sept. 21 with Texas A&M’s schedule set to feature three back-to-back home games. 

After COVID-19 disrupted collegiate football in 2020, the Southeastern Conference is making changes to combat future issues before the start of the upcoming season.
Announced by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey on Monday, teams will be forced to forfeit games in the 2021 season if they do not have enough healthy players to take the field. This is a step away from last year, which saw 139 matchups postponed or outright canceled due to pandemic complications.
Sankey said the responsibility is now on each squad to make sure they are prepared to deal with the responsibilities and repercussions of this change.
“Your team needs to be healthy to compete, and if not, that game won’t be rescheduled,” Sankey said. “We’ve not built in the kind of time we did last year, particularly at the end of the season, to accommodate disruption. And unless we’re going to do that, our teams have to be fully prepared to play their season as scheduled.”
For the upcoming season, teams can opt out of indoor mask mandates and frequent testing once 85 percent of the team has been vaccinated against COVID-19. As of presstime, six of the 14 SEC teams have reached an 80 percent vaccination rate. A&M is not mandating the shot for its players.
Even still, Sankey said encouraging the vaccine is the only way to guarantee a team is not forced to forfeit a game within the upcoming season.
“That number [of vaccinated players and staff] needs to grow and grow rapidly,” Sankey said.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby echoed similar sentiments last week, meaning the SEC’s new guidelines are on par with the rest of collegiate football nationwide.
“We are certainly, as we go forward, encouraging student-athletes to get vaccinated,” Bowlsby said. “Frankly, anyone not getting vaccinated is taking unnecessary and unwarranted risks. For a student-athlete, you’re rolling the dice on whether or not you’re going to be able to participate because you’re going to be in a testing protocol if you’re not vaccinated.”
Sankey closed the announcement of procedural changes by reminding players and fans alike that the vaccine is not an issue of creating a political divide. Rather, Sankey said, it is an opportunity to bring back the great sport which saw an overall decline the year prior.
“It’s not a political football,” Sankey said, “We need to do our part to support a healthy society because, as we look back, the potential absence of college sports last year caused us to think about not losing sight of the lifelong experiences, the laboratory of learning that takes place and the educational benefits that accrue to the people who participate on our teams.”

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