HOOVER, Ala. – Mike Leach did not share where his team stood in terms of vaccination rate toward the SEC’s 80% threshold.

Reaching the threshold would give Mississippi State some leeway in required COVID-19 testing along with face mask requirements inside team facilities.

The threshold has become a major topic of discussion at SEC Media Days after conference commissioner Greg Sankey said Monday the league doesn’t anticipate rescheduling games canceled due to COVID-19 cases within teams participating. This could lead to teams forfeiting.

He said six of 14 teams have reached the threshold.

“No more than it did last year,” Leach said when asked if he is worried about COVID-19’s impact this season. “I mean, we played Georgia with 43 scholarship guys available.”

Leach said the team does not discuss vaccinations with the media or within themselves. Instead, he lets the team doctors handle it.

When asked if he was vaccinated, Leach said that regardless of if he was or wasn’t, he wouldn’t share.

‘It’s never enough’

The possibility of a 12-team playoff format in college football continues to be discussed.

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney have shared his displeasure with the possibility of expansion, but coaches such as Leach are much further on the other side.

“It’s never enough,” Leach said. “…I personally would like to see 64 (teams). You could format it out pretty easily, but I think it's a huge step the right direction.”

Having Mark Keenum as the chairman of the College Football Playoff board of managers while also serving as MSU’s president gives Leach confidence in terms of the playoff's direction.

“I know they're in good hands,” Leach said.

Incentives to address the transfer portal

Sankey stated Monday more than 1,600 FBS scholarship recipients entered the transfer portal this year, which Leach clearly wasn't a fan of.

Leach expressed the idea of adding monetary ($100,000-$150,000) for players that stay at their school and graduate.

A player would get this offer — one that would be uniform, regardless of price, to avoid a bidding war — at the school they commit to. If they transfer, that money goes away and can’t be earned after graduating at the new school. 

“You've got to still encourage guys to graduate because I think that in general, things are better — families, the individual, the schools — the more people that graduate,” Leach said. “It's got to be less tempting to hit the transfer portal if things don't go your way.”

‘Mississippi State's a great place to establish your brand’

Nick Saban told reporters Tuesday his sophomore quarterback Bryce Young was approaching nearly $1 million in endorsement deals. 

A day after Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin was blown away by that number, Leach shared his thoughts on NIL and the success athletes can have with it at Mississippi State. 

“Mississippi State's a great place to establish your brand,” Leach said.

Leach tied the progress of NIL toward the possibility of college continuing a move toward the professional level — including trades and players getting cut which led to his aforementioned thoughts on the transfer portal.

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