The return of sports: COVID-19 updates and protocols for the 2021 football season

Jeremiah Dickey, Boise State director of athletics, at a press conference.
Photo courtesy Boise State Athletics

Grab your tickets and your favorite Bronco gear because Boise State sports are back! 

As the first home football game on Sept. 10 against the University of Texas at El Paso approaches, Boise State Athletics has begun to implement COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming season.

This season, Boise State Athletic Director Jeramiah Dickey has pushed for full capacity within Albertsons Stadium on game day. “6 games. 6 sellouts. Control what you can control,” Dickey tweeted on Aug. 9. 

Days prior during a press conference, Head Football Coach Andy Avalos announced that the team’s vaccination rate had improved since the Mountain West (MW) media days in July. 

“The biggest opponent we’ll have this year is making sure that we handle our COVID protocols,” Avalos said from behind a podium on The Blue. “We have to be very mindful if we want to put our best foot forward and keep ourselves in a position where we can continue to grow every single day and compete.”

Wednesday, Aug. 4 was expected to be the first day of the team’s fall camp. A morning portion of the day’s practice was planned to be open to guests. However, on the eve of fall camp, a press release was sent to members of the media regarding practice availability. 

“Out of an abundance of caution, and due to positive cases of COVID-19 within Boise State athletics programs, the department is taking the precautionary step of closing all practices to guests — including media — at this time,” the press release stated. “The health and safety of our student-athletes, and preparing for a successful 2021-22 athletics campaign, is our primary concern. As an additional note, tomorrow’s media availability with Coach Avalos and student-athletes has been postponed.”

Jeremiah Dickey, Boise State director of athletics, at a press conference.
[Photo of Jeramiah Dickey, Boise State director of athletics, at the introductory press conference]
Photo courtesy Boise State Athletics

On Aug. 4, 24 hours following the press release, Dickey took to Twitter to announce updates regarding protocols and parameters for the season. After apologizing for his late response, Dickey said that he would always be transparent and continued explaining details within a Twitter thread.

“We have been preparing for a full-capacity Albertsons Stadium for months, but have also been upfront about being able to adjust if necessary,” Dickey said on Twitter in an update on gameday protocols. “Having already been through a season of fluidity in dealing with COVID-19, we will be prepared for whatever guidelines and parameters are established by the appropriate health authorities for all home events. We look forward to welcoming Bronco Nation back to Albertsons Stadium for the 2021 season.”

According to an article from the Idaho Press, during the Mountain West media days, MW Commissioner Craig Thompson announced that, although the conference will not mandate the vaccine, there will be consequences for teams unable to participate in games due to positive tests and contact tracing

In an Instagram post on Aug. 27, the Mountain West Conference outlined its COVID-19 game cancellation policy for the 2021-2022 season.

According to the cancellation policy, if a team is unable to compete due to COVID-19 issues, the game will be considered a forfeit for that team and will not be rescheduled. The forfeited team will result in a loss while the opposing team will result in a win. If both teams are unable to compete, the game will result in a “no contest”. 

On Aug. 12, Boise State University announced that facial coverings would be required in indoor spaces and crowded outdoor spaces on campus due to the COVID-19 delta variant. This decision ultimately impacted athletics as well. 

Boise State Athletics recently announced COVID protocols for the season, which is subject to change. 

For student-athletes and members of the media, individuals must provide proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR test within 72 hours of kickoff. Proof of full vaccination will be submitted to the Boise State Public Health Office. 

During the 2020 season, the Mountain West Conference covered $4 million in COVID testing, according to Thompson. However, each university will be responsible for covering COVID testing for the 2021 season. 

At the Boise State Vaccination Clinic, individuals who have been vaccinated were given a card to fill out explaining their reasoning for getting the vaccine. The cards have been hung on a wall within the clinic. Many football players chose to write “L.O.F” or “Love Our Family” as their reason for choosing to get vaccinated for the upcoming football season.

As days before the first kickoff drop into single digits, Jeramiah Dickey and the athletic department remain optimistic about the 2021 football season. 
The Boise State football team will take the field against the University of Central Florida in Orlando on Sept. 2 for their first game of the season.

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