Face coverings have been a part of college football sidelines this fall ... sort of ... but to this point they have not been present on the field during play. After a few days of miscommunication and confusion, it would appear that teams playing in the state of Pennsylvania will not have to take an additional step by wearing face coverings while on the field.
The clarity came Friday afternoon after Pitt received word from the governor's office that it and Virginia Tech would not have to force players to wear face coverings during Saturday's game.
Pitt has received clarity from the state on the face covering situation:— Andrea Adelson (@aadelsonESPN) November 20, 2020
While the players will be outfitted with them, they aren’t required to have them pulled up while in the middle of playing. Thus ends facecoveringgate
According to a previous Pitt release, players were going to have to wear face coverings while on the field and sidelines "in alignment with recent guidance from state officials regarding the current health climate." The statement also said that those rules extend to Virginia Tech as well.
The office of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued a new order for face coverings this week, effective Nov. 17. The new order clamps down on wearing masks indoors and outdoors if people are unable to maintain social distancing. That order is extended to athletes if "they cannot maintain sustained physical distance from persons outside of their household. This includes while actively engaged in workouts, competition, and on the sidelines, in the dugout, etc. If sustained six-foot distancing can be maintained, face coverings may be removed when outdoors."
There was some miscommunication over which teams would be exempt from that order. The Pittsburgh Steelers, per a spokesperson, said that they were exempt from the guidelines, but the governor's office insisted that wasn't the case. Additionally, Penn State and Temple issued separate statements on Friday saying they, too, were exempt from the order.
To put it lightly, wearing masks has been done more liberally on sidelines than the rules intended. But there has been little to no evidence of on-field transmission, according to more than a dozen people who spoke with Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated. Wearing face coverings adds another layer of difficulty on top of what is already a difficult year.