ACC's Jim Phillips Says Conference Won't Require Players to Get COVID-19 Vaccine

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJuly 21, 2021

Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner Jim Phillips speaks during the NCAA college football ACC media days in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, July 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
AP Photo/Nell Redmond

ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips says the conference will not require athletes to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to play this season. 

“I believe vaccines are critical ... in eliminating the COVID-19 virus and its variants, but I also deeply respect that getting vaccinated is a personal choice," Phillips told reporters Wednesday.

Seven of the conference's 14 football teams are at or above the 85 percent vaccination threshold required to loosen restrictions for the virus. Virginia, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Wake Forest, Syracuse and Notre Dame are among the schools requiring vaccinations for any students who are on campus. (Notre Dame is a non-football member of the conference.)

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at preventing the spread and severity of infection. Persons aged 12 and over are encouraged by the CDC and every major medical organization in the United States to vaccinate.

While vaccination is a "personal choice," there will be competitive disadvantages for the unvaccinated and teams that do not reach the 85 percent threshold. Restrictions on meetings, mask-wearing and other team activities will be in place until that threshold is met; schools that meet the 85 percent mark are essentially free to practice as they would have before the pandemic. 

Phillips said the ACC is uncertain whether the conference will reschedule games that need postponing in the event of a COVID outbreak. Nearly every major college football team was impacted by a cancellation or postponement last season. SEC Commissioner Gary Sankey said this week that he is recommending games not be postponed and that teams could have to forfeit if not healthy enough to compete.