Tennessee Football Not at the COVID Threshold, But Is “Close”

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    Tennessee Heupel COVID

    University of Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel speaks to the media during the 2021 SEC Football Kickoff Media Days on July 20,2021 at the Wynfrey Hotel,Hoover,Alabama. (Jimmie Mitchell/SEC)

    During his initial SEC Media Days press conference, Tennessee coach Josh Heupel made an announcement regarding the health status of Tennessee in relation to COVID.

    “We are not at the threshold yet,” Heupel said at SEC Media Days.

    Tennessee is currently one of the six SEC teams that are not above the COVID vaccination threshold, according to Heupel. However, Heupel did say that the Vols are “coming close” to reaching that goal.

    On Monday, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced the SEC’s policies for COVID cancellations among SEC teams.

    “Your team needs to be healthy to compete,” Sankey said on Monday. “And if not, that game won’t be rescheduled.”

    Sankey continued on with statistics regarding the current status of the 14 SEC teams.

    “Right now 43 percent of our football teams, that’s six of 14, have reached the 80 percent threshold in roster vaccination,” Sankey said at SEC Media Days 2021. “That number needs to grow and grow rapidly.”

    Conferences and teams routinely worked together to reschedule games in 2020. These are the games that were canceled, rescheduled, or made up down the road. However, that is not the case anymore. Gone are the days of cancellations, as the SEC works back to a normal fall.

    On Nov. 23, 2020, Tennessee and Vanderbilt’s football programs announced that their matchup would be rescheduled due to COVID. However, it was really due to the Vanderbilt and Missouri game getting rescheduled the week prior. Ultimately, the rescheduling caused many headaches for the one year it existed.

    With the availability of the vaccine, Sankey believes that all teams should have the opportunity to get vaccinated. Therefore, no games will be made up or “rescheduled” due to a team having high COVID contact traces.

    As Coach Heupel continues to navigate his first year in the SEC, the Vols are below the current vaccination threshold. However, Heupel and Tennessee are “coming close” to the SEC’s COVID vaccination standards.


    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.