Orange Watch: Additional NCAA rule adjustments will affect Syracuse football

team photo uconn
Syracuse's defense takes the field during SU's 51-21 win over Connecticut. Mandatory Photo Credit: Initra Marilyn, The Juice Online.

Item: We originally wrote in April spotlighting the initial rule changes for the 2020 NCAA football season and how they would relate to the Orange.  Now, the ongoing pandemic has not only caused programs to shut down the sport entirely, but the teams moving forward with the season, such as Syracuse opening up at North Carolina Saturday (12:00 p.m. ET/ACCN), will see additional modifications in an effort to promote the safety and health of all participants competing, and those individuals stationed close to the field of play.

Here’s a look at the pandemic-related rule changes announced this summer, and how they will affect Syracuse at the Dome and on the road against its ACC competition:

*Team Area and Coaching Box – To promote enhanced social distancing, the Team Area will be lengthened from the current configuration between the 25-yard lines and expanded to the 15-yard lines. This will enlarge the Team Area an additional 10 yards on each end of the field, resulting in a 70-yard-wide total team area.

Reaction: The sidelines at the Dome and all ACC venues will be extended by ten yards with additional white field markings to designate the enlarged Team Area.  With severe restrictions on exactly who will be allowed on the sidelines (no individual media photographers or videographers, or guests of honor), the extra room encourages coaches to separate position units and not have a large mass of players gathered near the line of scrimmage.

*Pregame Coin Toss – Currently the toss rules allow up to four Captains from each team to be present at the toss of the coin. Additionally, there are typically many additional non-essential people present such as honorary captains, media, photographers, sideline radio personnel, etc.  The change for 2020 would be to include only one Captain from each team and the Referee and the Umpire.

Reaction: Under Dino Babers, Syracuse has previously waited until mid-season or later (it was after six weeks of play in 2019) to announce its team captains, instead trotting out game-by-game captains along with selected honorees and photographers to capture the moment.  That will not occur this year, so it will be interesting to see who will represent the ‘Cuse each game as its lone representative to watch the coin toss and determine choice of kickoff or receiving.  

*Uniform Attachment / Medical Mask – A medical mask made of cloth attached to the facemask below the eye shield area will now be allowed. If worn by any squad member of a team, medical masks must be of the same color and design and must be of a solid color with no advertising, slogans, or insignia. The medical mask may bear the team logo.

Reaction: As with seemingly the majority of the general public who are wearing masks to combat the spread of the disease, college football players will have the same option on the field of play and the sidelines.  All Syracuse support personnel will don masks as well, many no doubt in some sort of orange/blue combination with many sporting a SU logo of some sort.  

» Related: Four-star OL Enrique Cruz commits to Syracuse football

*Playing Rules Changes Related to Commemorative/Memorial Uniform Patches -The Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP), in an effort to allow student-athletes the opportunity to use the uniform to voice their opinions and/or express support of racial and social justice, has authorized the following uniform modifications:

  • As authorized by the institution or conference, allow a commemorative/memorial patch (e.g., names, mascots, nicknames, logos, and marks intended to celebrate or memorialize persons, events, or other causes).
  • The patch must not exceed 2¼-square inches and must be placed on the front or sleeve of the uniform and may not interfere with any required markings.
  • While not all team members are required to wear the patch, the patch must be identical for those who choose to wear the patch.
  • As authorized by the institution or conference, allow other names/words intended to celebrate or memorialize persons, events, or other causes on the back of the jersey/uniform where the player name is traditionally located. The names/words may vary by team member.

Reaction: As of September 7, neither Syracuse or the ACC had announced its plans pertaining to this rule change.  It will be interesting to see what length the school and conference go in this direction opening up individual player expression of contemporary issues facing the country.

One other note from a previously announced rule change:

*Players Numbering – With the recognized popularity of the single digit numbers, the digit “0” is added as a legal number.

Reaction: As we asked back in April, who would be the first Syracuse player in program history to wear No. 0?  We now know the answer; senior defensive lineman McKinley Williams (Miramar, Fla.) has the distinction.

For more Syracuse coverage, Like our Facebook page, follow us @TheJuiceOnline and listen to our podcast.

The Juice Online Discussion Forum



Brad Bierman
About Brad Bierman 680 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.