American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco stressed Tuesday that athletes get vaccinated, and that their season will depend on it.
The AAC, which includes Temple, will not reschedule games this season if a program faces significant personnel losses because of COVID-19, and such games will be considered forfeits, he said during the conference’s virtual media day.
“We’re going to advocate for universal vaccination for our student-athletes. They have real incentives to get vaccinated, health and safety, obviously, being the primary one,” Aresco said. “We as a conference also want to set a really good example for our campuses and for our communities.”
The league does not plan to test athletes three times a week, as it did last year, but will test those who are unvaccinated.
Vaccinated players will not receive testing, and the AAC will leave mask-wearing up to each school’s local authorities.
Aresco believes each school is getting close to having its team at a 90-100% vaccination rate, he said. “Our coaches have made it a huge issue to have their teams vaccinated,” Aresco said. “I’m really proud of what they’re trying to do.”
The NCAA updated its resocialization of collegiate sports on June 8, saying that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physical distancing, and individuals do not require quarantine or testing after exposure to COVID-19 unless they develop symptoms.
Because of the rapid spread of the COVID-19 delta variant, the CDC updated its guidelines on July 27, saying those in substantial or high-transmission areas, including vaccinated people, should wear face coverings in a city facility, common area or where social distancing is not feasible.
The AAC Medical Advisory Group plans to meet next week to discuss the new CDC concerns and guidance. But the plan, as of now, is to incentivize vaccinations.
Philadelphia is considered a substantial area, reporting an average of around 150 cases a day. The Health Department recommends that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask when indoors in public and unvaccinated people should consider double masking while inside public spaces.
Depending on the number of players vaccinated on a team, Temple’s football program should be able to return to normal group practices, which include the entire team on the field at the same time, seven-on-seven drills, and 11-on-11 scrimmages.
Last season, to limit the amount of contact among athletes, players were broken into “first team” and “second team” groups, then each team was divided into offensive and defensive groups no larger than 50.
The Owls are scheduled to travel Oct. 23 to the University of South Florida, where positive cases are among the highest in the nation, then compete against Central Florida at Lincoln Financial Field the following Saturday.