OSU kicked off its fall camp on Friday, meaning we are one step closer to what everyone hopes will be a much more normal college football season than we saw last year.
But as variants of the COVID-19 virus continue to spread across the country and positive cases continue to spike, specifically in Oklahoma, the Cowboys have seen an increase in vaccination rates. At Big 12 Media Days last month, Mike Gundy said about 55% of Cowboys were vaccinated. OSU’s coach said Friday that number is now more than 80%.
More Pokes are getting poked.
“We haven’t altered anything other than being very cautious with the virus,” Gundy said before Friday’s practice. “We’re over 80% vaccinated. Players that aren’t vaccinated are in a masked policy, and the others move about freely.
“If you’re vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask in our facility. If you’re not, you do have to wear a mask. We’ve implemented that and the players, so far, have done a good job with that as I’ve seen today. That’s really all we can do separate from normal protocol like we would do last year. Obviously, there’ll be testing in place. Players that aren’t vaccinated will be tested twice a week, which has already started.
“It’s personal preference, you know how that is. Everybody has an opinion on what they want to do. We try to educate everybody in the facility and then let them make their own choice.”
It’s more than just the personal (and public) health benefit — or the chance to go mask-free — OSU players are getting vaxed for football reasons.
The Big 12 can’t force players to get the vaccine, but there’s a pretty harsh penalty for teams that aren’t minding their Ps and Qs of pandemic protocol.
The league, like most conferences, is not expected to allow the rescheduling or postponement of games that became commonplace last season. Teams without enough available players simply have to forfeit. For a team like OSU with high aspirations, that would be a tough pill to swallow. Tougher than a quick shot in the arm.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve noticed is that people on the team don’t want to be known as the that guy that would happen to test positive and then primary contact 10 other guys,” said offensive tackle Josh Sills.
“I know in our room a couple of weeks ago, we only had, I think it was, five guys, four guys that had gotten the vaccine. If one person would have tested positive, it would have wiped us out. And now you can’t reschedule games like you could have last year, you have to forfeit.
“So I think guys were looking at it from ‘Well I don’t wanna be that guy’ but more importantly they’re realizing the potential that we have this year and the team we have and we can truly do something special. So they’re putting the team before themselves.”