SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey told ESPN that the conference has taken notice of some coaches’ cavalier use of face coverings while roaming the sidelines. Sankey said schools can accumulate penalties of up to $1 million for head coaches not wearing their masks on the sideline, with fines starting at $100,000 for the first violation, $200,000 for a second, $300,000 for a third and $400,000 for a fourth.
Several employees at SEC headquarters are tasked with scouring game broadcasts to spot violations, primarily from head coaches.
“My premise is, our head football coaches are leaders, the most visible people in their programs,” Sankey said. “They set the tone. They have that responsibility in this environment.
“When the coach is on camera, is the mask on? Yes or no? Pretty objective standard,” Sankey continued. “Is there any social distancing involved, which to a certain extent can mitigate not wearing a mask, but the mask-wearing expectation is clear.”
Sankey told ESPN that he’s in his third week of sending memos to athletic directors, with the first week’s emphasizing the importance of wearing masks and the second warning of “fines, removal from the sidelines or suspensions.” He added that he’s in communication with athletic directors because individual athletic departments took on the task of enforcing state and local guidelines.
The conference has also noticed large groups of fans not physical distancing or wearing masks but is leaving protocol enforcement up to individual schools to address.
Florida’s coronavirus outbreak came days after Gators Coach Dan Mullen raised eyebrows by saying he hoped fans would “pack The Swamp” for the now-postponed game against LSU.
Following Florida’s 41-38 loss at Texas A&M, Mullen expressed his enthusiasm with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) decision late last month to allow stadiums in the state to operate at full capacity for sporting events. The Sunshine State has the third-most coronavirus cases and fifth-most deaths since the pandemic began.
“I know our governor passed that rule so certainly, hopefully, the university administration decides to let us pack The Swamp for LSU next week — 100 percent — because that crowd was a major factor in the game,” Mullen said.
“I absolutely want to see 90,000 in The Swamp,” he continued. “I don’t think the section behind our bench, I didn’t see an empty seat. It was packed. The entire student section, must have been 50,000 behind our bench going crazy. Hopefully that creates a home-field advantage for us next week because now we passed a law in our state that we can do that. I’d like our students out there cheering [us] on and give us that home-field advantage.”
On Wednesday, the University of Alabama announced football coach Nick Saban and Athletic Director Greg Byrne tested positive for the coronavirus. Alabama then issued a statement Friday saying Saban tested negative on a second PCR test conducted Thursday by an SEC-appointed lab, whereas the positive test was administered by a lab not appointed by the conference. The statement added that if Saban tests negative for three consecutive days with 24 hours elapsing between each test, the program will consider the first test result as a false positive and allow Saban to coach the Crimson Tide Saturday against Georgia.
Mississippi State Coach Mike Leach was spotted not wearing a mask on camera numerous times in the Bulldogs’ season-opening win over LSU and was asked why he was unable to keep his face covered.
“I tried to remember the best I could then I found myself talking all the time because I’m calling the plays as well so I was in a constant state of talking,” Leach told reporters two days later. “So, between me taking it down to talk and me lifting it up and it falling down on its own and me remembering to put it back up, I think there were a number of challenges there. With a little practice, who knows, it may be better this week.”
Leach also asked reporters about their masks and ability to adhere to protocols before offering his own theory on why face coverings are strongly encouraged to stop the spread of the virus.
“I try to do my best with it but once you’re six feet apart, I can’t help but wonder if some of this isn’t an homage to politicians.”
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