NORMAL — While Illinois State athletes have occasionally been seen on campus the past two months during summer practices and conditioning, preparations for the fall sports season begin in earnest next week.
And when the Redbird football and volleyball teams begin their fall camps on Aug. 6, the athletic department policy of weekly testing for unvaccinated individuals will remain in effect.
The ISU athletic department was already abiding by new policies announced by the university Wednesday.
“We will follow university guidelines and requirements,” ISU director of athletics Kyle Brennan said Wednesday. “Our job is to educate our student-athletes and put them in the best position to make a decision for themselves. But at the end of the day, it is a personal decision.”
Brennan volunteered that he is fully vaccinated.
“I think it’s a good thing, helpful,” he said. “I’m following what I believe to be science, but I understand not everyone shares that point of view.”
Brennan will not have a grasp on how many Redbird athletes are vaccinated until after they return to campus.
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“We’ll know in a few weeks where we stand,” said Brennan. “Most of our teams probably won’t be fully vaccinated. We’ll take a look at what the percentage is and see where we stand.”
The ISU AD believes each Redbird team would benefit from reaching the 85 percent level of vaccination for its Tier 1 personnel of players, coaches and support staff.
Teams that reach 85 percent no longer have to undergo COVID testing or contact tracing.
“That puts us in better position to be successful on the field,” Brennan said. “From a competitive standpoint, I would love to be at that 85 percent.”
While Brennan emphasized policies could change at any time, he said there are no attendance restrictions planned for ISU sporting events.
“Our hope and desire is to have every seat full,” said Brennan. “We’ll have to wait and see. We’re following the science and what the state and the university say.”
ISU announced a $2 million lead gift toward the athletic department’s long-sought indoor practice facility in March.
“We’re continuing to fund raise and raise awareness. We have a lot of good support from donors,” Brennan said. “We’re creeping up to where we need to be. We still have some work to do to finalize this project.”
While Brennan declined to attach a dollar figure to how much has been raised to this point, he did say “I’m pleased. We’re making great progress to get the project done. The outpouring of support has been amazing. We have donors ready and willing to help. We’re finalizing right now what our numbers would be and working with the university on what the final project would look like.”
According to Brennan, ISU is just beginning to see the effects of the new NCAA rule allowing athletes to profit from their name, image or likeness.
“There have been a handful of student-athletes who have had opportunities. It’s starting to creep up,” he said. “I’m sure more opportunities will come. They have the opportunity to make some money, and we’re supportive of that.”
Brennan said the athletic department is in the process of purchasing software to put its athletes “in the best position to maximize their online presence and their brand.”
Contact Randy Reinhardt at (309) 820-3403. Follow him on Twitter: pg_reinhardt