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Column: College football sending wrong messages vs COVID-19

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C’mon, college football, you’ve got to do better.

Coaches must set an example by wearing their masks. Fans shouldn’t be cheering from their seats or mugging for the cameras without face coverings. Schools must mandate safety checks for anyone entering the stadium.

That’s the only way they’re going to get through this most tenuous of seasons — somewhat safely, at least — in the midst of an unchecked pandemic that has already claimed more than 200,000 American lives.

The biggest game of this past weekend produced all sorts of disturbing images. Georgia, the third-ranked team in the country, requires fans to wear masks when they enter Sanford Stadium and while they’re on the concourses, but they can take them off at their socially distanced seats.

So, naturally, hardly anyone was wearing a mask while watching a 27-6 victory over Auburn in the first top 10 matchup of the season.

Sure, Georgia was following Southeastern Conference guidelines, and school officials insisted that they maintained a safe environment for an outdoor event, but the message was not a good one.

Especially when Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart seemed to spend most of the evening with his mask dangling beneath his nose or down around his neck.

Smart acknowledged that he must do a better job with this most basic — and arguably, most important — of safety protocols, a simple step that tens of millions of Americans are following every day despite the inconvenience.

“Absolutely,” Smart conceded. “I’ve been talked to by the commissioner and several others.”

He held up a mask to drive home his mea culpa.

“I just have to figure out a way to get it tighter and more comfortable on there,” he said. “The biggest thing is when you’re in the middle of coaching and talking to somebody, you