Athletics implement new sanitizing, sideline protocols during COVID-19 pandemic

Changes to the helmets worn by athletes is just one of the many differences we are seeing this year with college football as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. (File photo by Abigail Compton | Collegian Media Group)

College football is in full swing, despite how unlikely it seemed several months ago. However, the football experience looks different this year as changes sweep programs across the country.

COVID-19 altered the way individuals involved with Kansas State football do their job. The continuation of the season relies on the collective effort of every person in the organization.

K-State equipment manager Al Cerbe sees changes in his position.

“The biggest thing is sanitizing,” Cerbe said. “Each day, we help the players make sure their shoulder pads and helmets are left out and we sanitize them each morning.”

In addition to sanitizing, players this year are required to wear a type of visor that acts as a “splash guard.” According to Cerbe, the presence of the visor connected to the face mask keeps whatever could come out of a player’s helmet contained and away from others.

Other changes that Cerbe cited to keep the program running safely include temperature checks for anyone that enters the facility, splitting the team into two locker rooms and making sure everyone wears a mask.

The football team is currently taking as many precautions as they can so they avoid the fate that befell spring sports last year.

“Last March, our spring sports season ended a little abruptly, and since then we’ve been planning and preparing for fall sports,” Brian Cordill, assistant athletic director of event operations, said.

Additionally, the program is limiting the amount of non-players allowed on the field during games to help free up space on the sidelines. The band and potential recruits are no longer allowed on the field on game day.

Not every non-player can be removed from the field on game day, however.

“We still need a chain crew to work the game,” Cordill said. “We have our instant replay guy down there and our sideline replay assistant. We still have photographers down there, although less of them. It’s about limiting where they’re going on the field and the number needed for each function.”

Limiting capacity throughout the stadium is also large part of K-State’s plan to keep people safe.

The press box is another location in the stadium that now allows substantially fewer people.

“In the press box on a game day we have somewhere around 90 seats we would use in a normal year, and this year it’s only 30,” Ryan Lackey, assistant athletic director for communications, said.

Lackey said they switched from in-person interviews to Zoom interviews for coaches and team members as well.

“Those are probably the biggest changes, not having those face-to-face interactions with the media for both coaches and players,” Lackey said.