Auburn football coach Bryan Harsin declines to disclose vaccination status as mandate deadline looms

With Auburn University last week mandating a Dec. 8 deadline for all university employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, head football coach Bryan Harsin on Monday declined to disclose whether or not he had received the vaccine or planned to receive it.

Harsin has refused multiple times to discuss his vaccination status going back to SEC media days in July and said it was a deeply personal decision for everyone. But his comments Monday were his first since the university announced on Oct. 22 that it had modified its vaccine policy to require all employees to be fully vaccinated or face termination.

"I'm aware of the new policy and appreciate you have to ask the question and understand it, but it doesn't change -- the executive order and all those things -- that I'm not going to discuss any individual's decision or status on the vaccine or anyone else's, including my own," said Harsin, who's in his first season as Auburn's coach.

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

No. 18 Auburn, which has won three of its past four games, faces No. 10 Ole Miss on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"We're focused on Ole Miss. We're focused on the things we have to do to get prepared for this week," Harsin said. "... We've had those conversations [about the vaccine], but that doesn't change what I've said before."

According to Auburn's new policy, there could be limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled to a medical or religious accommodation from being required to take the vaccine. The Dec. 8 deadline for providing proof of vaccination means employees need to have the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines by Nov. 24 or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Nov. 24.

Harsin tested positive for COVID-19 in August and said at the time that he was not "anti-vaccine" and that any narrative along those lines was "misinformed."

"I fully support the choice for anyone to vaccinate and I also support getting reliable data-driven information into the hands of those who still have questions about the vaccine," Harsin said in August. "Anyone who has been in our facility knows that."

Last week, Washington State fired head football coach Nick Rolovich and four assistant coaches after they refused to comply with a mandate that required all state employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Rolovich is suing Washington State for illegal termination, in part because of what his lawsuit calls "discriminatory and vindictive behavior" by athletic director Pat Chun.

Some college football coaches, including Alabama's Nick Saban, have done public service announcements urging fans to be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the state of Mississippi's Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees voted Monday to require those employed by colleges and universities that receive funding by the federal government to be vaccinated by Dec. 8.

Mississippi State head football coach Mike Leach, who has previously declined to discuss his vaccination status, had no interest in weighing in on Monday's decision.

"The whole COVID vaccine thing bounces all over the place," Leach said during his weekly media availability. "It would be like commenting on each hit in a tennis match, so I don't have any comment."