University of Michigan student-athletes will need to be vaccinated by Aug. 1 in order to participate in athletics during the 2021-22 season.
The Detroit News reported that university officials sent athletes a two-page document titled “Mandatory COVID Vaccine Policy for Athletics” on June 17. Athletes must be vaccinated before practice begins this summer, while staff members who work in close contact with athletes were required to have at least the first dose of a vaccine by July 1.
“Required vaccines among student-athletes & the appropriate staff members will help create a 'Clean playing field' during practices, competitions, & travel when individuals are in close daily contact with each other & at the highest risk for exposure, thus avoiding the risk of cancelled practices, competitions, and other disruptions,” the letter reads, according to The Detroit News.
The goal is to avoid the pauses to schedules that college sports dealt with in 2020-21, when COVID-19 caused games to be canceled, teams to go on break, or some schools and conferences to cancel entire seasons. Fully vaccination programs could also avoid the high number of COVID-19 tests that schools administered in 2020-21.
Michigan’s letter included a section that said anyone who doesn’t want to get the vaccine for religious or medical reasons must supply documentation to the athletic department. While Michigan is ceasing on-campus COVID-19 testing, individuals that choose not to get vaccinated must go through testing at least once a week while continuing to wear masks and practice social distancing.
The virus impacted college sports the entirety of the school year, starting with conferences canceling sports in the fall and ending when the North Carolina State baseball team was removed from the College World Series in late June due to positive tests.
Michigan dealt with its own issues. The Wolverines canceled their final three football games of 2020, all UM athletics went on a two-week pause in January, and the men’s hockey team was removed from the NCAA Tournament in March. The university announced in April that proof of vaccination would be required for individuals living in university housing in 2021-22.
“We all saw the challenges of the previous year, and we’ve seen those challenges persist as recently as the College World Series,” said Kurt Svoboda, Michigan associate athletic director for external communications and public relations. “I think it’s just another stark reminder we’re not out of the woods, that this is here and it’s going to last, and what can universities and athletic departments do to continue to educate their community members about this reality and about the options going forward.”