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The college and the NFL play soccer, but it’s a very different ball game

Football is the same game in the National Football League and at major college conferences. However, getting the team to play the game during a coronavirus pandemic has proven to be a completely different issue.

The National Football League franchise occasionally stopped after a single positive coronavirus test. The Big 12 and Southeastern Conference programs will only stop if teams can no longer be formed.

This week, staff, including Florida players and coach Dan Maren, shelved the match against LSU, which was offensive when 24 positive test results came out. Alabama 2nd and Georgia 3 will play on Saturday after Alabama coach Nick Saban and athletic director Greg Burn have announced they are virus-positive. Saban took a negative test on Thursday, but was allowed to return on Saturday after receiving three consecutive negative results over 72 hours.

Meanwhile, at the NFL, one positive result each for the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, who arrived on October 3, was enough to drive the match on October 4, and the team played on October 5. It was decided to do. October 11th (with a total of four teams) prompted a new postponement of the match against Denver Broncos.

A very different approach to managing a pandemic results in a big gap between how the game is managed at the professional and college levels, and how much the athlete is saying about the problem.

The NFL has a clear North Star in its Articles of Incorporation calling for cooperation between Commissioner Roger Goodell and the franchise. Professional soccer players who pay millions of dollars are too valuable to team owners to affect their health protocols and working conditions. They also have a player association that conducts collective bargaining on their behalf.

As a result, dozens of pages of protocols have been negotiated between the NFL and the player’s union and have been updated at least twice since then. Players take a daily virus PCR test. The fine for violating the mask protocol is 6 digits. Team facilities are subject to league inspection.

Following a single spiral outbreak, the league’s attitude tightened the rules and almost certainly thought the college conference was another Saturday to survive the pandemic. It was to postpone it preemptively.

Fans are watching the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills play in Nashville, Tennessee.


Mark Humphrey / Associated Press

There is no headphone cho in college football. Each of the powerful major conferences governs itself. NCAA President Mark Emart does not have jurisdiction over the top tiers of Division I football.

College conference safety plans are as broken as different start dates and numbers of games. In general, college athletes usually undergo PCR tests 2-3 times a week, unless there is an active outbreak. Meetings have few enforcement mechanisms other than strict language emails. Only the SEC docks revenue sharing to non-protocol compliant schools.

There is also the economic reality of separating professional football and college football. The NFL team has significantly increased resources to invest in coronavirus mitigation measures such as testing, contact tracing, and hygiene. Universities where the athletic club can generate more than $ 100 million in revenue are break-even companies in normal years, with fewer games televised, fewer stadiums, and more this season. You will lose 10 million dollars. And that’s before adding the cost of frequent Covid-19 tests.

Another major factor shaping the different approaches to viruses is the nature of the workforce. The roster of college football is huge and the players are unpaid. The university maintains a roster of 85 scholarship athletes plus dozens of walk-ons, compared to the 56 NFL roster expanded this season. The large roster, combined with NCAA’s guarantee that athletes can opt out without impacting scholarships, has accelerated the idea of ​​the “next man” in college football this season.

In addition, the NCAA prohibits athletes from gathering representatives to negotiate on their behalf, and undergraduates make little statement about the circumstances in which they play.

Without a representative, college football players’ voices wobbled this summer during the months when the conference was deciding whether to play. The grassroots movement initially appeared at the Pac-12 and Big Ten Conference, where players sought greater financial freedom and representation. Athletes said they would opt out of the season if certain health protocols were not met.

South Carolina quarterback Colin Hill jumps over the goal line against Vanderbilt.


Mark Humphrey / Associated Press

But the message changed as the #WeAreUnited movement gained followers from star players such as Trevor Lawrence at Clemson and Justin Fields at The Ohio State University. Athletes were no longer demanding salaries or threatening to refrain from working. They insisted that they wanted to play as long as the college added enough health measures to make pandemic football feasible. New hashtag: #WeWantToPlay.

That happened — and the college conference gave themselves a lot of room to overcome the problem. Several Atlantic Coast Conference teams have emerged unattended without losing the entire position group. Clemson missed 11 players in his final match against Virginia on October 3rd. Coach McBrown of North Carolina learned that Virginia Tech was missing 15 scholarship players in the October 10 match while filming an ESPN hit just hours before the kick-off. ..

And at the SEC, Vanderbild countered South Carolina on October 10, despite a virus and other injuries reducing the list of available scholarship players from 85 to 56. .. This week’s match against Missouri was finally postponed as its roster fell short of 53 players available and broke the Southeastern Conference’s minimum allowed threshold.

“We are our shell,” Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said on Wednesday.

The NFL’s tougher stance came after learning the difficult way of what could happen if the football team didn’t hit the pause right away.

The Tennessee Titans played the Minnesota Vikings on September 27, despite the positive Covid-19 results of assistant coaches, without leaving other team members at home. Two days after the game, the Titans stopped practicing after receiving positive results for three players and five staff.

The case may have inflated and the two games may have been postponed because the player has done one or more unlicensed trainings.

By then, the NFL has also tightened mask requirements and, with additional support from NFL security personnel, has begun compliance checks at all club facilities, including requesting video footage of specific areas throughout the club facility. I told the team to do it.

Rather than strengthening health protocols, college meetings chose frequent reminders. SEC Commissioner Greg Sanky has sent a note to the league’s 14 coaches not to drop their masks and yell at the referee during the games following the first and second games of the season.

“Many people met the requirements established by the Task Force last weekend, and your commitment to these new requirements is highly appreciated,” Sankey wrote on October 3. Clearly remind us of the requirement to meet a new health protocol aimed at minimizing the potential spread of Covid-19. “

Sankey hasn’t written such a note since the third week, but if he didn’t keep masking athletes and coaches last Saturday, he would spend millions of dollars at the end of the year meeting to $ 100,000 to school. We have notified Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas A & M when they are running low. By the fourth week, the SEC’s most successful coach had signed Covid-19, and two of the seven games in the conference were postponed.

Write to Laine Higgins ( and Louise Radnofsky (

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