The question of when college football will start is so overwhelming in these parts that it dwarfs the questions that will come from the trickle-down effect.

Nobody knows the answer to the question of when.

Almost as important is, what will it look like?

We’re being told that all options are being discussed, strange proposals like games without fans or a full season that doesn’t begin until February.

At some point those stadium gates will open, and fans will step inside, perhaps cautiously at first.

In these unusual COVID-19 times, the most consistent thing we’ve seen is change, and that will extend to the college football experience.

Plans are being discussed to reduce or eliminate human contact in concession lines, maybe through use of plexiglass shields at check-out stations, eliminating cash purchases or perhaps having customers get their food from warming bins or more grab-and-go options.

One of the biggest overflows of people at a football game is the restroom. You may see more portable facilities to allow for social distancing.

No doubt the biggest change – and the one which will meet the most resistance – is wearing masks.

Like everything else, it’s only a discussion right now, but while plexiglass and port-a-potties won’t get significant blowback, masks may be different. Obviously we as consumers right now can’t even agree on whether everyone should wear a mask inside Walmart.

Some at a college football game will embrace the masks because they find them necessary. Some will find them trendy and will purchase masks with team logos that are already becoming available.

Others will refuse, and what happens then? Maybe masks will be required for entry, but when those masks go inside pockets and purses will the requirement be enforced?

Think about the fights that could occur when the fan who isn’t wearing a mask turns and sneezes on the one who is.

The mask decision – perhaps all public health decisions – could be taken out of the hands of school administrations depending on what guidelines are set down by federal, state or local government.

No government or health official, no school president or administrator has yet said college football will definitely happen.

But I believe it will.

As society opens up around us in small steps there’s an eagerness to return to normal, but first there are the small steps.

And so it will be with college football.

There will be change, and how we approach it will go a long way in determining how far down the road normal really is.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. Find more in the Facebook Group ‘Ole Miss Discussion w/Parrish Alford.’

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