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Another vaccine mandate situation to monitor in college football

Ahead of a Dec. 8 deadline for all Auburn employees, Bryan Harsin isn't talking about his vaccination status.

Less than a week after Nick Rolovich was fired at Washington State, another vaccine mandate situation has emerged in major college football. 

Auburn on Friday announced its own mandate for all employees to be fully vaccinated, less an approved medical or religious exemption, by Dec. 8.

To ensure that Auburn can certify compliance with current and future federal contracts, the university’s vaccine policy has been modified to require that all Auburn employees must be fully vaccinated no later than Dec. 8, 2021, except in limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled to a medical or religious accommodation. An individual is fully vaccinated two weeks after they have received the second dose in a two-dose series, or two weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine. This policy applies to all full-time and part-time employees (including those working remotely), undergraduate and graduate student employees and TES employees at Auburn University, Auburn University at Montgomery, the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Unvaccinated employees who wish to comply with the mandate must take their first dose of Moderna by Wednesday, and their first does of Pfizer by next Wednesday, Nov. 3. Those wishing to take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have until Nov. 24 to get their shot.

And so with that, the spotlight naturally turns to Bryan Harsin and the Tiger football program.

Harsin raised eyebrows when he discussed the vaccine at SEC media days in July.

“I mean, this is a personal decision,” Harsin said then. “It’s deeply personal for a lot of people. And so, that’s how we approach it: here’s the information, you make the decision.”

Harsin contracted COVID-19 days before the Tigers' season opener and, while declining to discuss his vaccination status, described himself as "not anti-vaccine," which is not the same thing as being pro-vaccine. 

The message was much the same on Monday. 

"I'm not going to discuss any individual's decision or status on the vaccine, including my own," he said. "From the beginning I made it clear that wasn't something I was going to talk about or discuss. I wasn't going to go down that road and don't feel like right now it's any different. We're focused on Ole Miss. There's a lot of other things right now that we have to make sure we're ready for for this football team, with our players and our staff, the people in this program."

Of course, we can only speculate as to Harsin's status, but anecdotal evidence and common sense tells us all that the majority of people who decline to divulge their vaccination status are not vaccinated. 

Again, we have no idea what Harsin's status is, and chances are we won't until around Dec. 8, if we learn it at all.

But the Rolovich situation told us that, yes, a major institution really will fire its head football coach if he's not vaccinated and that, yes, a major college football coach really will let himself get fired rather than get vaccinated. 

And with that as our backdrop, we settle in and wait to see how this plays out.