Why Louisiana-Monroe football coach Terry Bowden won't mandate COVID-19 vaccinations
Terry Bowden won’t mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for Louisiana-Monroe’s football players and staff.
But he does want them to understand the consequences that come with declining the vaccine.
“It’s going to be one of those things were I’m not going to push beyond what those parents and players feel comfortable with, but they’d better have the courage of their convictions,” Bowden told the News-Star.
“(Unvaccinated personnel) will wear a mask over their nose and mouth at all times in our facility, at practice and get tested every week. If they miss that or don’t want to do it, then we’ll have to make some tough decisions.”
Bowden, who said he has been vaccinated, estimated that around “10 to 12” players likely to make the travel roster are unvaccinated.
COVID-19 cases are rising throughout Louisiana, which experts have attributed to the more contagious Delta variant. The vaccination rate among the state’s population is a dismal 40%, despite leading the nation in per capita case growth.
“I didn’t want to take the vaccine, but I took it," Bowden said. "I think from a standpoint of where we’re trying to go, I’m encouraging our players to please take it if at all possible because it would help us as a team not to lose guys we’re count on.”
Sun Belt Conference commissioner Keith Gill said at Sun Belt Media Day last Thursday that fully vaccinated players, coaches and other Tier 1 personnel are no longer required to undergo COVID-19 testing. Conference games will not be rescheduled this season due to the virus, forcing teams who cannot play to forfeit.
Gill acknowledged that teams who are fully vaccinated will have a competitive advantage.
“That’s a huge difference from last year, where we re-scheduled games and we declared games that weren’t played ‘no contest,’” Gill said. “In our conference regular-season schedule, we will not do that.
“We’ll declare that game a forfeit, and that will go into the standings and the record for conference championships.”
The 2020 Sun Belt Championship Game was a casualty of COVID-19. Coastal Carolina was forced to withdraw from the matchup against Louisiana-Lafayette following positive tests within the program.
“I hope we do the right things and make the right decisions because we have a hard row to hoe,” Bowden said. “We’ve got to do everything right just to have a chance, but as it showed last year at ULM and some other places, you can do everything right and still be affected.”
Bowden said the Delta variant could affect how he manages ULM’s walk-ons and travel squad.
“If a walk-on comes in and his parents conscientiously don’t believe that’s best for him, I’m more likely to tell them I can’t afford to take that chance,” Bowden said. “When I go on a plane and I’ve got to decide if I’m going to take the guy who can play on Saturday or the guy who could get COVID and not play on Saturday.
“This is the dynamic of this year dealing with the COVID-19 problems but it’s not near the situation it was last year.”
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