College football needs to get strict on mask wearing

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The NFL finally had a COVID-19 hiccup, postponing the Pittsburgh Steelers–Tennessee Titans game from Sunday until later next week. It’s the first game that has been impacted by the pandemic, as the result of at least nine people in the Titans organization testing positive for the virus.

In response, the league is upping the ante on its disciplinary measures for coaches who have ignored the in-game mask protocols. Six-figure fines previously had been doled out, but coaches can take that hit, so many of them chose to ignore the rules and not wear the masks. Now, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the NFL has sent a memo to all franchises saying it will “address lack of compliance with accountability measures that may include … suspensions and/or forfeiture of draft picks.” (Titans coach Mike Vrabel has been notably out of mask compliance.)

Clearly, this is a league that is serious about enforcing the protocols it established in conjunction with medical experts.

In college football? Not so serious. There is no evidence that any conference currently playing really cares what anyone does on the sidelines.

At the college level, where 22 games have been postponed or canceled and some teams have played games without dozens of players, there are no known fines for noncompliance with mask rules. Not for coaches, and not for institutions. Perhaps that’s why the protocols established have been routinely ignored.

College football damn near didn’t have a season, basically pushing through misgivings and resistance by promising rigorous testing and following whatever guidelines were established. The teams would listen to the doctors and health experts—that’s what conference and school leaders said over and over, all summer.

Not everyone listened. Not by a long shot. Turn on just about any game Saturday and you’ll see as much, on vivid display. But