College students were completely unprepared for March of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic rattled college campuses across the nation as students were sent home, classes were moved online and the spring semester came to a startling halt.
As the United States has begun to sift through the unforeseeable, college students have been forced to quickly learn and adapt to a new world of online classes and virtual meetings. But as lockdowns have been lifted, campuses have begun to reopen and organizations have modified to meet in-person, college students are finally beginning to feel a sense of normalcy returning to their everyday lives.
For many university students, the fall semester is highly anticipated as it marks the return of one of America’s most-watched sports: college football. This semester, however, felt a little different as students, alumni and fans anxiously awaited a decision to be made as to whether or not there would even be a college football season.
From requiring face masks and limiting stadium capacities to testing players and coaches for COVID-19 each week, each school that decided to proceed with their football season has had to make major adjustments to the way in which they play the game. Here are some ways in which different universities and conferences have uniquely adapted to the pandemic in order to continue their college football season.
The Big Ten
The Big Ten conference was among one of the first to postpone their season. The conference decided that playing college football given the current state of the pandemic would be an irresponsible choice with potentially fatal consequences. This was not a risk they were willing to take. Currently, the Big Ten conference is set to begin their football season on Friday, Oct. 23, with a matchup between Wisconsin and Illinois. The conference hopes that by delaying the start of their season, the unknowns of the virus will be discovered and more easily managed.
Originally the Pac-12 conference announced a postponement of their college football season. However, after more thorough research and discussion, the conference decided to cancel their college football season entirely for the fall semester. The Pac-12 is hopeful that they may be able to have a college football season in the spring of 2021. The vote to cancel the college football season for the fall semester was unanimous among the conference, as they recognized the importance of students’, athletes’ and fans’ health.
The South Eastern Conference
The South Eastern Conference, or SEC, requires that all college football athletes be tested for COVID-19 with a Polymerase chain reactor, or PCR, standard test at least twice during a competition week. The PCR testing is done through a third party to ensure the consistency of the testing among athletes in the conference. Additionally, all coaches and other sideline personnel are required to wear face coverings throughout the duration of the game.
The Big 12
After hearing out their student athletes, the Big 12 conference decided to give their players the college football season they wanted. To ensure their safety, all college football athletes must be tested three times per week for COVID-19. If a player is to test positive for the virus, the conference requires an EKG, troponin blood test, echocardiogram and cardiac MRI in order for the athlete to return.
The Atlantic Coast Conference
The Atlantic Coast Conference, or ACC, has eliminated all non-essential personnel from the football fields’ sidelines. Those that are deemed essential to the functioning of the game are required to undergo screening, practice social distancing and wear proper face coverings. These safety measures were agreed upon by all 15 schools that make up the conference in order to slow the spread of the virus by limiting those on the field.
The Conference USA
In an effort to educate the conference’s leaders, the Conference USA had a group of medical consultants speak with them. The board of directors of the Conference USA has stated that the health of their student athletes is their top priority and that the conditions of the pandemic will continue to be monitored throughout the college football season.
The Northeast Conference
After thorough discussion, the Council of Presidents of the Northeast Conference, or NEC, voted to postpone all fall sports, including college football, for the remainder of the semester. College football athletes were granted opportunities for practice and training for the fall semester to enhance their experience in the conference and prepare for a delayed season.
The 2019 national championship winners, the Clemson Tigers, were happy to announce that their football season would be happening. In order to accommodate for the pandemic, Clemson has reduced the number of fans permitted in the stadium. Lowering the capacity of Clemson’s Death Valley stadium will allow for fans to maintain proper social distancing, minimizing the risk of spreading the virus.
To provide an opportunity for contactless entry to the stadium, Alabama University has gotten rid of paper parking and game tickets. Attendees must download tickets to their phones and scan upon entry. This policy was put in place to minimize the spread of germs through the handling of tickets.
Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University has banned all tailgating. The university encourages their fans to watch the game from home in order to restrict the number of people on campus during game days. They also ask fans to consider limiting the amount of personal belongings they bring into the stadium in order to minimize contact at bag checkpoints.
Notre Dame University
Notre Dame University is offering refunds to season ticket holders as a result of their postponed season due to the pandemic. Season ticket holders have three options when choosing a refund method: They can opt to have all of their funds roll over to the 2021 college football season, they can request a full refund for their tickets or they can choose to donate their ticket money to the university’s Student Emergency Relief Fund.