As Mark Stoops addressed SEC Media Day on Tuesday, he made sure that his stance on vaccinations and COVID-19 protocol was clear.
“We're just going to continue to educate our players and try to reach that threshold. We have a ways to go, but I believe it's attainable,” Stoops said regarding how he will handle vaccinations with his team.
The threshold in question is 80 percent, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced on Monday; which Kentucky has yet to meet. Sankey also announced that six of the 14 teams in the conference had already met that threshold.
“I'll let the experts come in and continue to educate them and talk to them about the benefits of it and possibly some of the negatives and let each one make their own decision,” Stoops said.
When asked about the possible expansion of SEC play to nine games, Stoops circled his answer back around to what ended up being a humongous issue for the 2020 season, which saw only inter-conference matchups all year:
“I wondered if people watched last year. The league, there was quite a few people that struggled, if anybody took notice of that. So that's how I feel.”
Stoops is of course referring to the many COVID-19 outbreaks that forced postponements, cancellations and overall hardships for the SEC last season.
Stoops would be sure to drive the point home later on:
“When somebody asked me the question about nine SEC games, well, there was ten last year, and again take a good, hard look at what it did to half our league. It could have been easy for our team to fold the tent, and they didn't do that. So, I have great respect for them and the coaches in our program.”
While last year was not easy on anyone, Stoops knows that at the very least, it provided motivation to carry with them into this season.
“I just credit our team with perseverance and strength to continue to fight through that,” Stoops explained. “There's no denying, it was very difficult. It was difficult on everybody. Everybody in here, every team, everybody had adversity and things to deal with. We were no different. But I greatly appreciate our football team.”
While UK is one of the SEC teams who is yet to reach the 80 percent, past experiences point toward the likelihood of the Wildcats doing everything in their power to avoid facing any issues like what occurred in 2020.