Photo: Texas Southern Athletics

Few schools in the SWAC have been more impacted by COVID-19 than Texas Southern.

And head coach Clarence McKinney understands that the road back to some semblance of normalcy in college football, and in society, rests on the strength and effectiveness of the current vaccine campaign.

Entering the final week of the regular season, the Tigers have played just two of its five scheduled games either by opponents being impacted by the virus or in-house spread within the program.

Ahead of a matchup with SWAC West champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff that holds conference championship game implications, McKinney indicated that the majority of the team was affected by the coronavirus.

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“We hope to get everyone back sometime this week,” McKinney said Monday during the SWAC coaches’ Zoom media availability.

Texas Southern (0-2) last played March 20, falling 51-23 to Southern. Its scheduled April 3 game against Grambling State was canceled outright due to a COVID outbreak that forced Grambling to shut down all football activities for two weeks.

TSU was later hit with an outbreak of its own that led to the final home game of the regular season versus Mississippi Valley State being wiped out.

The struggles with COVID-19 led McKinney to suggest that vaccines — and getting players vaccinated in particular — would ease some of the strain attempting to compete a season once the fall rolls around.

“With the vaccine being out, I think the best we could possibly do is to get our guys fully vaccinated,” he said. “And if you’re fully vaccinated, it could prevent pauses in play that we currently have.”

So far this season, nine SWAC games were postponed or canceled because of COVID-19 issues.

The second-year head coach was candid about vaccine hesitancy many communities have grappled with since the shots became publicly available in December.

“I know that there are a lot of questions in our communities about the vaccine — what’s in it,” he said. “We don’t know what’s in Tylenol (but) we’ll take it. It’s just something guys are going to have to understand. You got to make a sacrifice for the team (and) for your teammates.”

As of Monday, 209 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 25.7 percent of the country’s population considered fully vaccinated.


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