Ohio State AD Says Big Ten Won't Fine Football Coaches for Not Wearing Masks

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistOctober 19, 2020

The Big Ten logo is seen on the field before an NCAA college football game between Iowa and Miami of Ohio, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told reporters Monday that the Big Ten currently is not planning to fine head coaches who don't wear masks or don't keep a mask on for the entirety of games, saying such decisions were being left up to individual universities at the moment.  

"I think we're going to be fine," he said. "We're going to be sensitive to the moment. There are going to be times when Ryan Day is in the middle of a call and his mask is down, and we have someone to remind him to put it back up. Kind of like that get-back coach, right? That's where we like it at this point in time. I hope we don't get to a point where we have to fine people."

Given the number of postponements and positive cases seen around college football during the COVID-19 pandemic—and given that the Big Ten currently won't be allowing any fans to attend games—it's a little surprising the conference won't fine coaches who aren't masked, though clearly, the expectation is that those coaches will mask up regardless and their universities will enforce their own rules. 

The coronavirus pandemic, and how schools and conferences are responding to it, remains the lingering storyline hanging over the 2020 season. 

Last week, for instance, Florida head coach Dan Mullen said after a loss to Texas A&M that he wanted to see a full stadium of fans for this weekend's scheduled matchup vs. LSU. But after an outbreak of the coronavirus in the Gators football program—which included Mullen testing positive for COVID-19—that game was postponed. 

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Alabama head coach Nick Saban also tested positive last week. In total, six FBS coaches have tested positive for the coronavirus, while a number of programs have seen multiple games postponed. The SEC is fining schools $100,000 for first offenses of coaches not masking on the sidelines, with the potential for follow-up fines of $200,000, $300,000 and $400,000. 

There's also the deeper question of whether it's responsible at all to have unpaid amateur athletes play football during a pandemic, especially given some of the unknowns regarding the long-term risks on the body in those individuals who contract the coronavirus. Regardless, most FBS programs and a large portion of the player base have chosen to go ahead with the season.