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College Football Rule Changes: Quicker Replays, Zeros on Jerseys and Social Distancing


The answer, Burks said, from coaches and officials was a resounding “no.”

Burks acknowledged that 2020 was not a particularly drastic year for playing rule changes — “once the game starts,” he said, “you’ll see things get back to normal pretty quickly” — but college sports executives are warning that officiating itself will be unusual because of the pandemic.

Electronic whistles are, for instance, being widely recommended.

“The thought of the official going to their mouth 100-plus times a game, or blowing spittle out from the whistle, is not fit for our new environment,” Shaw said.

Officials, who may wear goggles and are expected to wear masks even during plays, have been urged to brush up on the mechanics of working as part of a six- or seven-person crew in case someone tests positive before kickoff, compromising the typical eight-person unit. The traditional crew meetings the night before games will be conducted virtually, even from within the same hotel.

Burks insists, though, that the game day standards for officials will remain the same.

“Once the games start, there are no excuses for not performing at the same level that the expectations are every year,” he said. “You’ve got to have the mind-set that once this starts, there are no excuses.”

Coaches, officiating executives said, certainly will not be more forgiving of errors.

Those new whistles, by the way? They will be black, a change Shaw requested after he tested one that was red and black — colors that make Georgia fans swell with pride — and thought back to his days as a Southeastern Conference referee.

“I was just thinking if you go to Auburn and you pull out a Georgia whistle, it’s not going to go over very well,” Shaw said.

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