Lane Kiffin, the head football coach of the University of Mississippi, said on Saturday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus and would miss Monday night’s game against the University of Louisville, the season opener for both.
Every player and coach on the Mississippi football program has been fully vaccinated — a point of pride for Mr. Kiffin, 46, in recent weeks — and the coach said in a statement Saturday that he experienced “only mild symptoms.” He said no players were expected to miss Monday’s game, which will be played at a neutral ground in Atlanta, and that no one else on the football program had tested positive.
“We will continue to monitor our team closely and take responsible action if symptoms appear,” he said.
In an interview last month, Mr. Kiffin said he and other members of the university’s coaching staff, along with some outside doctors, had spoken with players to try and clear up any doubts about full vaccination. The successful attempt in Mississippi, one of only a handful of major college programs with 100 percent vaccination rates, was the envy of other schools, including in the Southeastern Conference.
“Football is competitive, coaching is competitive, the SEC is as competitive as you can get, including in professional sports,” said Mr. Kiffin on Aug. 23. we did this’ and people are calling us for advice – other coaches, other trainers – and we share that openly.”
But Mr. Kiffin lives and coaches in a state that has struggled immensely with the virus. Less than half of those eligible for shots in Mississippi have been fully vaccinated, and in recent weeks the state has posted daily records for new cases and seen its health care system stall. Since August 14, average Covid hospitals have surpassed the highest previous level of 1,547, just over a year ago.
And Mr. Kiffin is far from the first college coach to test positive and be forced to miss a game. Last year, University of Alabama coach Nick Saban missed a rivalry game against Auburn University, and Ohio State University’s Ryan Day was absent for a game against Michigan State University.
mr. Kiffin, one of the sport’s sharpest offensive minds, is entering his second season as Mississippi head coach. The Rebels set a 5-5 record last season.