Despite the COVID-19 pandemic making new surges around the country, football is returning this week and there are countless new regulations being put in place to limit the spread of the delta variant. After seeing what college football and the NFL looked like during 2020, fans can only hope that the 2021 seasons run more smoothly and efficiently.
Because of how college football is structured, each power five conference is independently implementing different regulations to manage the spread of COVID-19. This means that even though most of the policies are similar, they are being put into action on different timelines.
The Big 10 was the last of the power five conferences to introduce policies about forfeiting games due to COVID-19. If a Big 10 team cannot play due to an outbreak, they must forfeit the game and take a loss. If two teams scheduled to play each other both report COVID-19 cases, the game will be announced as “no contest,” which doesn’t negatively impact the teams’ overall records.
The Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC have similar policies when it comes to forfeiting games due to COVID-19. However, they provided no information on what happens when two teams scheduled to play each other are both required to forfeit.
According to The Athletic, financial penalties for missing games may be established in the SEC to account for lost television money.
The ACC, the last of the power five conferences, adopted a different rule for COVID related forfeits. If two teams in the ACC cannot play each other, both teams must take a forfeited loss on their records.
Unlike college football, the NFL can implement and enforce regulations for the entire league at any time. The league has already announced that there will be no season extensions to accommodate for COVID-19 outbreaks. Any game that cannot be rescheduled within the regular 18-week season will result in a loss for the team with COVID-19 cases. Additionally, players on both teams will not be paid for the forfeit, and the team that is experiencing the outbreak will be responsible for any other financial losses.
The NFL is also restricting locker room access during the 2021 season. A maximum of 50 people, who are required to be fully vaccinated, will be allowed in the locker rooms with players on game days.
Vaccinated players in the NFL who test positive but are asymptomatic can return after two negative test results that are 24 hours apart. Any non-vaccinated players must follow old protocols and quarantine for 10 days.
All NFL stadiums are planning for full capacity, but mask mandates will differ across the country. Players will be fined $14,650 for any violation of the league’s COVID-19 protocol.
The world is still as hectic and unpredictable as ever, but at least some things are getting back to normal. Football fans across the country will finally be packing stadiums and cheering on their teams during the 2021 season.