Auburn head coach declines to address vaccination status after university mandate

Published 5:40 am Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Auburn coach Bryan Harsin declined to address his vaccination status days after the university imposed a mandate requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

The university mandate, which went into effect last Friday, imposes a Dec. 8 deadline for employees to be vaccinated or they could face termination.

Harsin has declined to say whether he’s vaccinated since reporters first asked at Southeastern Conference media days in July.

“I’m aware of the new policy,” he said Monday. “I appreciate you have to ask the question and understand it, but it doesn’t change … I mean, the executive order, all those things, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m not going to discuss any individual’s decision or status on the vaccine or anyone else’s including my own, like I said before.

“So from the beginning, I think I’ve made it clear that that wasn’t something that I was going to talk about or discuss. I wasn’t going to go down that road and don’t feel like right now that’s any different.”

Washington State fired football coach Nick Rolovich and four of his assistants on Oct. 18 for refusing a state vaccination mandate for employees.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed an executive order Monday directing executive branch agencies — which includes agencies such as Medicaid, Mental Health and Human Resources — from requiring employees to get vaccinated or enforcing the mandate on businesses and vendors.

The mandate would not impact the University of Alabama and Auburn University because those institutions were created by the Alabama Constitution and are under the management and control of their board of trustees. The three campuses of the University of Alabama System and Auburn University announced Friday that they will require employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by Dec. 8.

It’s unclear if Harsin, who tested positive for COVID-19 in August, could run afoul of Auburn’s mandate. Employees can request exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

The 18th-ranked Tigers face No. 10 Mississippi Saturday night.

“That’s what I’ve got to stay focused on with our players and our staff and the people in this program,” Harsin said. “So we’ve had those conversations, but that doesn’t change what I said before.”

Auburn hadn’t reached the SEC’s recommended 85% vaccination status entering the season. A spokesman said Monday he did not immediately know if the team had met that threshold.

Harsin has said he’s not “anti-vaccine” but that he supports “getting reliable data-driven information in the hands of those who still have questions about the vaccine.”