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Savannah State’s conference requiring COVID vaccination for athletic participation

Vaccinations required for athletes, coaches, athletic staff, cheerleaders, and band, per SIAC announcement
Savannah State student-athletes will have to be fully vaccinated to take the field this season
Savannah State student-athletes will have to be fully vaccinated to take the field this season(WTOC)
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 11:13 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2021 at 4:14 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (WTOC) - The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) will require full vaccination for players and coaches to take the field this season.

The conference, which includes Savannah State University, cited rising COVID-19 rates when announcing the new policy Tuesday morning.

The policy states all SIAC student-athletes, coaches, athletic staff, officials, and “auxiliary groups” be fully vaccinated to participate in SIAC-sponsored sports this year. According to the conference release, auxiliary groups includes band members, cheerleaders, and dance team members.

The conference says student-athletes may be exempt from this requirement if they receive campus-approved exemptions for medical or religious reasons. But the SIAC adds exempt student-athletes “will not excuse the student-athlete from COVID testing per guidelines established by local and county health officials as well as any additional campus requirements.”

“Within the context of rising COVID-19 infection rates, student-athletes are a particularly vulnerable stakeholder group who, as a result of their athletic participation, are required to travel off-campus and compete against and interact with student-athletes on other campuses. These athletic related activities not only increase the risk of exposure to our student-athletes, but also increase the risk of exposure to their classmates and other campus stakeholders once those athletes return to campus,” SIAC Commissioner Gregory Moore said in a statement released by the conference. “The SIAC policy decision establishing vaccination as prerequisite to intercollegiate athletic competition participation is guided by the overarching interest to protect the health and safety of SIAC student-athletes, and was decided in the light of overwhelming data and evidence which has demonstrated the effectiveness of authorized COVID-19 vaccines combating coronavirus as well as its delta variant.”

Savannah State University gave the following statement in response to the announcement.

“In light of the SIAC’s new return to play requirements, we are reviewing our procedures to make sure they align with that of the conference. We will provide further information upon completion of the review.” – Director of Athletics Opio Mashariki.

Savannah State did not provide vaccination statistics for athletes but said “we are strongly encouraging our student athletes to get vaccinated and will have incentives for vaccinated student athletes.”

Kirk Warner says he is ready for some College football, especially watching his son play for SSU. But he also want’s them to be safe so we don’t end up where we were last year. That’s why he agrees with this decision from the SIAC.

“Last year my son didn’t get to enjoy a typical full freshman year so I want him to be able to enjoy that college experience and getting that vaccine may be that avenue to do that,” Warner said.

Warner says his whole family was vaccinated back in April to protect themselves from COVID-19, including his son Karrington, a sophomore on the SSU football team. While the announcement from the SIAC doesn’t change their decision, it does provide a level of safety Warner is grateful for as his son takes the field this fall.

“I whole heartedly agree with their decision and I, my wife and I feel safer knowing that if Kerrington is vaccinated and everyone around him is vaccinated really will limit the opportunity for him to become COVID positive.”

Warner admits he is nervous to see what happens to their roster because of this decision, but he is hopeful it brings a safer season in just a few weeks.

WTOC reached out to the Coastal Health District to see if they have been contacted to help vaccinate at Savannah State because of this change of policy. They say they have not, but do have plenty of vaccine availability and walk in appointments open.

Savannah State’s first scheduled intercollegiate athletic events are scheduled for Saturday, September 4.

The SIAC is a NCAA athletic conference consisting primarily of historically black colleges and universities with headquarters in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. The SIAC includes 15 member institutions (Albany State University, Allen University, Benedict College, Central State University, Clark Atlanta University, Edward Waters University, Fort Valley State University, Kentucky State University, Lane College, LeMoyne-Owen College, Miles College, Morehouse College, Savannah State University, Spring Hill College, and Tuskegee University), which are located within a contiguous six-state footprint (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Ohio). The SIAC sponsors seven men’s and six women’s sports and is a proud member of the NCAA Division II. For more information, visit www.thesiac.com.

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