By Justice Santa Cruz, Skyline Student Life and Politics Correspondent
ALPINE_ Following the death of football Coach Kevin Canty and more than a dozen positive COVID cases, the Sul Ross State University football team has suspended summer practice.
President Pete Gallego’s chief of staff, Michael Pacheco, told the Skyline that the university followed all Covid-19 protocols that had been in place for the past year. But the requirements under Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, which are less stringent than many states, do not permit public institutions to require vaccinations or masking.
Given the limits of what the university could require of its student-athletes, Pacheco said officials and coaches, all of whom were vaccinated, consistently impressed upon the players the urgency of taking every safety measure.
“We are still trying to push that this is real,” Pacheco said. “We want to keep everyone safe.”
Just how real it was hit home with the death of 37-year-old Offensive Coordinator Kevin Canty, who died from Covid-related complications, and infections among more than a dozen players, all of whom recovered without hospitalization.
President Pete Gallego issued a statement July 20 praising Canty for his “outsized impact” on the football program and mourning his death. Gallego, however did not specifically mention Covid-19.
“All I can do, however, is implore each of you to do all you can to make sure your family, friends, colleagues and co-workers continue to stay safe in what still seems to be an uncertain time,” Gallego said.
When the entire football team was tested upon return for summer practice in early July, one player had the infection and four were quarantined. Practice continued for two more weeks, with at least 10 more positive cases, including head coach John Peirce and several members of his staff, but the university did not suspend practice until week three. The entire coaching staff had been vaccinated, university officials said.
Pacheco said most of the cases were among incoming freshmen who were quarantined on campus under protocols used during the school year. Other students were allowed to return home and quarantine under the supervision of their doctors.
There has been a spike in the virus and in deaths nationwide as well as in Texas due to the spread of the Delta Variant of Covid-19 among those who have not been vaccinated. Pacheco and other university officials said they have yet to determine if the Delta Variant was the culprit on the football team.
Full football practice is expected to begin in mid-August.