As Ole Miss begins preseason football practice on Sunday, coach Lane Kiffin is heartened by the commitment he's seen from the Rebels' players and coaches on the vaccination front.
Kiffin said there is a 100% vaccination rate among those players, coaches, staff members and everybody within the program who will be on the practice field Sunday. It's been a huge push by everybody within the Ole Miss athletic program in a state -- Mississippi -- that ranked last a week ago in percentage of residents receiving at least one vaccination dose (41.6%), according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In particular, Kiffin urged his assistant coaches in each position room to hold themselves and their players responsible to get vaccinated.
"It's pretty amazing and great motivation for our fans and the state," Kiffin told ESPN.
Kiffin said the ground the Rebels made up over the past few months was equally amazing, as they were nowhere near 100% when the summer began. He said the players' willingness to get vaccinated and push each other to do so shows their commitment to making this a special season.
"Nobody wants to be in a position to forfeit games," Kiffin said.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said last month at SEC media days that six of the 14 football teams in the league had reached 80% vaccination. Sankey said that games would not be rescheduled in 2021 if a team is unable to compete because of positive tests on its roster.
"The forfeit word comes up at this point," Sankey said.
Sankey said all SEC teams that reach the required 85% threshold will not have to undergo the COVID-19 protocol and regular testing, whereas those teams under 85% will be tested.
Georgia's Kirby Smart said last month his team had reached the 85% mark, while Alabama's Nick Saban said that "pretty close to 90%" of the Crimson Tide's players had been vaccinated. According to reports last month, Arkansas and LSU were also at least 80% vaccinated.
Ole Miss, ranked No. 24 in ESPN's preseason Top 25, opens its season on Sept. 6 against Louisville in Atlanta.