SEC threatens fines, suspensions for breaking mask protocols

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Georgia coach Kirby Smart, left, and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, right, meet after an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey is threatening schools with $100,000 fines and individuals with suspensions if coaches fail to keep masks on during games as the league tries to play through the coronavirus pandemic.

A memo from Sankey to conference coaches and athletic directors, dated Oct. 6, includes a section on “Masks and Sideline Hygiene.” The memo was obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday and first reported by ESPN.

The SEC’s return to practice and play protocols require the wearing of face coverings on the sideline by all coaches and team personnel to mitigate the spread of the virus. A Sept. 30 memo after the opening weekend of the SEC season included a reminder to coaches to be mindful of masking up and following other sideline protocols.

According to the latest memo, going forward SEC schools will be “assessed a $100,000 reduction in Conference revenue” for failure to adhere to requirements. Repeat offenders will face an increase in lost revenue by $100,000 per offense and even suspensions, the memo said.

“In addition, individuals who fail to comply with or disregard the masking requirement could be subject to penalties, including but not limited to, suspension for a specified period,” Sankey wrote.

The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, earlier this week issued a similarly stern warning to follow protocols as the league grapples with positive cases. The NFL has fined several coaches $100,000 for improper use of face coverings and docked their teams $250,000.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart acknowledged this week he had been talked to by the commissioner and others about keeping his mask on.

“I just have to figure out a way to get it tighter and more comfortable on there,” he said. “The biggest thing is when you’re in the middle of coaching and talking to somebody, you have to get comfortable being able to leave it up and leave it on.”

ACC Commissioner John Swofford sent a memo Sept. 15 to its schools following the first weekend of games that included a section emphasizing face coverings on the sideline with no threat of penalties. Swofford wrote he had instructed football officials to not talk with coaches during a game if the coach was not “appropriately wearing their face covering.”

Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda said the conference has issued “reminders” directly to coaches and through athletic directors about adhering to mask requirements during games.

American Athletic Conference spokesman Chuck Sullivan said the league has also emphasized the need for coaches and team personnel to be diligent with mask use during games with reminders to athletic directors.

Sankey wrote coaches and ADs were “responsible for providing a copy of this memorandum to and discussing its contents with your assistant coaches, noncoaching staff and other team personnel.”


AP National Writer Paul Newberry contributed to this report.


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