Just a Minute: College Football May Center Around Players, but Games Include a lot of Other People Too

Christopher Walsh

The National Football League has reportedly distributed a number of new protocols to teams in hopes of playing through the coronavirus, although some of them seem to clearly miss the mark. 

For example, the NFL has banned post-game jersey exchanges, which have been very popular among former Alabama players. Also all postgame interactions without less than 6 feet of separation are prohibited.

Both seem pretty ridiculous considering football is a contact sport. 

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman called it was a "perfect example of NFL thinking in a nutshell," while Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson tweeted that it was "DAMN SILLY."

Per ESPN, other aspects of the policy include:

• Coaches and reserve players being "strongly encouraged" to wear masks on the sideline, but it's not considered mandatory.

• Players and coaches must submit to multiple temperature checks before games and cannot participate if they have a fever of more than 100.4 degrees.

• Lockers need to be spaced 6 feet apart in both the home and visitors locker room whenever possible. Plexiglass partitions are encouraged.

• Water cups or bottles are not to be shared along the sideline. 

• Players have to spend the night before games at the team hotel, even for home games. 

Although the NFL Players' Association signed off on all of this, it came a day after NFLPA president and Browns center JC Tretter criticized the NFL online and said the league "is unwilling to prioritize player safety" during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Like many other industries, football's resistance to change is based on the belief that the best way to run things is the way we've always run things," Tretter wrote in a post on the NFLPA's website. "That pervasive thought process will stop this season in its tracks."

It's with this in mind that we turn our attention to college football, which has a lot more to deal with than the NFL, and can't isolate its participants as well. 

While the NFL will continue to debate how many preseason games should be held and how long of an acclimation period players should have, the changes do help to bring to light how a significant number of non-players have to be considered with any decisions regarding college games. 

It's important to note that the virus is thought to primarily spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or possibly inhaled into the lungs. 

One of the recommendations by the Center for Disease Control is for people not to raise their voice without having a mask on because it results in projecting droplets.

With that in mind, consider the following five groups:

1) Fans

Even with social distancing, you're looking at minimum of requiring every person in attendance to wear a mask and keep it on (they'd also have to sign a waiver releasing the school from responsibility). 

2) Coaches and staff 

This isn't unique to college football, but there are a lot more people on the college sidelines than for NFL games. A big part of that has to do with recruiting and alumni. Both would likely need to be severely limited, everyone would have to wear a mask and the team sidelines extended to space everyone out as much as possible. 

3) Officials 

Masks would almost certainly have to be worn. There would have to be rules about no one getting close to the officials working the sidelines and preventing anyone approaching people holding the yardage markers or the ball boys. Think of the person holding the chains, who can't move, and someone behind him sneezes.

4) Cheerleaders

Would the visual be worth having them in an environment in which every person only increases risk, especially if there are only few or no fans? At minimum they'd have to wear masks. Combined with the following, the pregame pageantry would be nothing like to what we're accustomed. 

5) Marching bands 

Never mind the social-distancing issues, between blow holes and spit valves there's a lot of deep breathing and saliva projected.   

How do you do it safely? 

Can you do it safely? 

Comments (2)
No. 1-2
Tyler  Martin
Tyler Martin


Interesting points, Chris. Thanks for sharing.

Christopher Walsh
Christopher Walsh


FYI, you might see a follow-up story on one of these five groups on the site Friday.

All Things Bama