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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Pittman does what's necessary to be present

by Wally Hall | August 24, 2021 at 2:11 a.m.

In July, Auburn's new football Coach Bryan Harsin did not want to talk about the coronavirus.

He got flippant, almost irritated, when asked how many of his players were vaccinated.

It was not a slap in his face. Every coach was asked.

He hemmed and hawed and finally said about 65%, or 20% below the SEC's 85% threshold just two weeks before practice was set to begin.

Apparently there was a good reason Harsin, who has been successful as a coach at Arkansas State University and Boise State, didn't care to discuss it.

Like too many people, he wasn't concerned about it.

Now he has the virus.

Just two weeks before Auburn kicks off its season, its $5 million head coach is at home in isolation.

It has been reported that he has no symptoms, but he tested positive late last week.

Did he not hear what happened to the North Carolina State baseball team?

Apparently he has spent some of his time at Auburn talking about how disorganized Gus Malzahn's teams were in the past.

At least Malzahn never had to be kept from his players.

Today, Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman is speaking to the Little Rock Touchdown Club, and founder David Bazzel received calls last week about what needed to be done to keep Pittman separated from the crowd that is expected to be at capacity.

Pittman, who it has been said is vaccinated, and his bosses don't want to take any chances.

So there won't be any pictures when the meeting is over. Attendees will be asked to stay socially distant from him, which is probably going to kill Pittman since he has never seen a hand he didn't want to shake.

What people will get is an honest assessment of where his team is today. He might even mention his players are above the 85% vaccination mark.

Ole Miss is the only 100% vaccinated school in the SEC, although Alabama is getting close.

A quick sidebar on the Crimson Tide and Saban: Apparently junior tight end Jahleel Billingsley had some unexcused absences early in practice, and over the weekend Saban informed him and the team that Alabama football "is not a democracy and everybody doesn't get to do what they feel like."

"You've got to buy in and do what you're supposed to do to be part of the team and do the things you need to do in practice ever day," Saban said.

Saban, who has done public-service announcements on TV and radio about getting the shot and encouraging everyone else to get it, most likely will have a 100% vaccination rate, even if it takes addition by subtraction.

Anyway, with this surge in covid, Pittman could have asked for a rain check on speaking. He didn't.

The only request was for some precautions to be taken, and Bazzel is all out to do that.

Bazzel jokingly said Monday that if he needed to get a plastic shield, he would do so.

The LRTDC is meeting for the first time in two years, having taken a year off because of covid-19 restrictions last year, which means this will be Pittman's first opportunity to speak to the lunch bunch.

While watching his news conferences on Zoom and TV, it is easy to see he's putting in some really long hours. It is even easier to see he cares about his players.

Every player and staff member is like family to him, and this team seems to be responding to the love, including healthy doses of tough love.

No way Sam Pittman is taking a chance on getting the virus and having to be isolated from his team.

He's the leader, and he leads by action by doing what needs to be done to attend practice.

Print Headline: Pittman does what's necessary to be present

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