SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Missouri Valley Football Conference Preseason poll came out today with SDSU selected as the favorite coming off a national runner-up finish, while USD was picked 8th in the poll. But before teams can start competing for that title, they’ll need to address some COVID-19 concerns, including vaccination rates.
The Missouri Valley Football season is returning to its normal fall slate. While awaiting NCAA guidance, the conference is emphasizing the need for team vaccinations.
“We remain hopeful that we will have guidance that determines if 85 percent of a team is vaccinated, that that will preclude the need to test or contact trace asymptomatic individuals,” Missouri Valley Football Conference Commissioner Patty Viverito said.
Viverito says teams are lagging behind that mark currently, and that could have consequences.
“If we do lose games, it’s quite likely that those will result in forfeits. We’re not going to be in the business of trying to reschedule games, we don’t have space in the schedule to do that,” Viverito said.
SDSU didn’t have a single positive COVID test last spring. Head Coach John Stiegelmeier says now they have the lowest percentage of players vaccinated across the conference.
“Bottom line is, if they’re not vaccinated, they’re going to be treated like they were last year with masks, and to go meals and those types of things. Not as punishment, but that’s the way life was and that’s the way life is,” SDSU Head Coach John Stiegelmeier said.
USD only played 4 games last spring due to COVID-19. They brought in Sanford Health’s Dr. Jeremy Cauwels to address some concerns surrounding vaccines.
“He came in and talked very frankly about the pros of vaccination and that’s helped move our needle significantly,” USD Head Coach Bob Nielson said.
Stiegelmeier says they’ll bring in an expert ahead of fall camp.
“We have this term in our program, team first and another term, leave nothing to chance. In my opinion those two terms intersect to say get vaccinated,” Stiegelmeier said.
Neither team is at the 85 percent threshold, but hopeful they’ll get there before the season starts.
“I’m pretty confident here as we get close to the start of practice that we’re going to make that 85 percent quota that the NCAA is looking like they’re going to lean on,” Nielson said.
“It’s their decision and I’ll honor that, but we’re going to do what we can moving forward and try to get up to 85 percent,” Stiegelmeier said.
SDSU and USD both open their seasons on Friday, September 3rd. The Jacks play at Colorado State while USD travels to Big 12 foe, Kansas.