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Commissioner: Vaccine rate ‘lagging’ for MVFC members

Canceled games could result in forfeits this fall

COVID-19 vaccination rates within the Missouri Valley Football Conference are lagging, and the price for an outbreak could be hefty.

Speaking during the league’s media day via zoom, MVFC Commissioner Patty Viverito noted the league is awaiting guidance from the NCAA, but is hopeful that protocol will dictate that teams that hit an 85 percent vaccination mark will be precluded from having to test and contact trace asymptomatic individuals.

However, no team in the league is at that mark yet, she said.

“Vaccinations are clearly the key to avoid canceling games due to the virus this season, and I think our teams need to step up and hit that 85 percent to ensure a successful season,” she added.

And unlike the spring season, during which postponements and no contests were commonplace, a canceled game in the fall season will “quite likely” result in a forfeit. Viverito said athletic directors and school presidents met in June, and they were leaning toward taking that direction and not rescheduling games this fall.

“We’re not going to be in the business of trying to reschedule games,” she said. “We don’t have space in the schedule to do that, and we also have a path to be able to play safely with vaccinated teams.”

A final decision on those protocols will come after the NCAA hands down guidance, she noted.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Viverito said when she met with coaches in June, “the rates were frightening, to be perfectly honest.”

But when she met with teams again a couple weeks ago?

“The numbers were vastly improved,” she said.

Youngstown State head coach Doug Phillips said in his media day interview the Penguins are at about 70 percent vaccinated.

Other notes from MVFC Media Day:

— For the first time in its program’s history, South Dakota State was chosen as the No. 1 team in the preseason poll. The Jackrabbits were the national runners-up in the spring, falling to Sam Houston State in the national title game. North Dakota State was picked second, while YSU was picked at No. 9.

— YSU linebacker Grant Dixon made the All-MVFC Preseason First Team, while offensive tackle Dan Becker, running back Jaleel McLaughlin and defensive back Zaire Jones made the Second Team. Additionally, running back Christian Turner and defensive end James Jackson received honorable mentions.

— The Penguins dipped into the transfer portal for some roster additions during the offseason. YSU added Jorge Porterreal (Lehigh) and Bryce Oliver (Kentucky) at receiver; Alijah Curtis (Army) and Jayvon Thrift (West Virginia) at safety; Isaac James (Ball State) at defensive back; Ryan Johnson (Duquesne), Mike Morris (Kent State) and Nick Sabrin (Notre Dame College) along the offensive line; and J.T. Nganum (Glenville State) at defensive end. Curtis played quarterback at West Point and attended Canton McKinley High School.

— Despite being picked to finish fourth, Southern Illinois had the most players named to the Preseason All-MVFC Team with 13, including honorable mentions. South Dakota State had 12 players, Northern Iowa had 11, and North Dakota State had 10. Illinois State had the fewest with one player. Six Penguins received at least an honorable mention.

— The 24-team playoff could expand soon, according to Viverito. The commissioner said it’s likely the FCS could add two conferences as early as the 2022 season, and that as a result, the playoff field will need to grow in order to maintain a 50 percent at-large bracket.

— While conference realignment returns to the headlines, Viverito said the MVFC is “pretty satisfied” with its current membership, which just added North Dakota in 2020. However, she said the league wouldn’t “close the door on opportunities if they arose.”

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