(WCIA) — In June, 75% of Illinois athletes were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but come the start of football training camp on August 1st, Illinois head coach Bret Bielema said he’s anticipating all of his players to have the vaccine, with the consequences of contact tracing being a driving force.
“For us to be able to go onto the field with a level of confidence that we’re hopefully being able to avoid disruption as a result of COVID-19 can give us a lot of confidence as we hit the field,” said Whitman.
“There are so many players lives that were affected when they were involved in contact tracing,” said Bielema at Big Ten Media days on Thursday. “We had guys miss three, four weeks in a row, just because they were constantly involved in tracing, and same thing with coaches. So that’s probably the driving force. We didn’t mandate, we didn’t require, we let it be their decision, and their decision only.”
Last season, the Big Ten conference required athletes to sit out for 10 days if they came in contact with someone who had COVID-19, and 21 days if they tested positing. The Illini never had to cancel a game last season due an outbreak within their program, although there were several games where the team had more than a dozen players missing from the lineup, including starting quarterback Brandon Peters who missed four games.
The Big Ten hasn’t created any COVID-19 protocols for the conference. Commissioner Kevin Warren says there will be a decentralized process this season, with schools allowed to establish their own policies. From there, the conference will finalize a process in August.