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Conferences have been replacing about two college football officials per week amid COVID-19 issues

Conferences have been down an average of two college football officials per week this season due to COVID-19 reasons. Steve Shaw, the NCAA’s national coordinator of officials, told CBS Sports that conferences have managed to provide full crews to this point.

“We haven’t counted it [totally], but it’s been steady, 1-2 a week”, said Shaw in first season as the national coordinator. “It’s impacted every conference.”

That has caused Shaw to ensure there are replacement officials available nearby and on short notice. The process can get more complicated with replacement officials having to test negative for COVID-19 in time for a game. Officials are being tested once a week, sometimes self-administering these tests before mailing them to a testing lab.

Shaw will know Thursday night or Friday morning if he has to replace an official. So far, no crews have taken the field shorthanded because of COVID-19.

“It has not stressed the system in terms of we don’t have anybody,” Shaw said. “Where it’s stressed the system is on Friday you have to get people who didn’t think they were working.

You’ve got to [have a replacement] drive to Ann Arbor. You’ve got to drive to Fayetteville. It’s not put us in the situation where we just don’t have the people.”

Shaw said coaches have even approached officials with ways to shorten games for safety’s sake amid COVID-19 concerns.

“The coaches are trying to get us to the finish line,” he said. “This is two teams that are playing each other. Between opt outs and contact tracing and natural injuries, they were both very thin. [They’d say,] ‘We’d like less plays in this game. We want to play it. What can we do?’

“Whoever would have thought you would ask something like that?”

Shaw referred to what he called “a gentlemen’s agreement” between coaches on how to shorten games. He was not specific in what such an agreement would entail.

In the past, coaches have agreed to allow the clock to run during a blowout, but that is not believed to be the case here.  

“It’s been an unusual year,” said Shaw, who oversees 1,500 Division I officials.

Next up is assigning officials for bowl games. Shaw will have to preassign some crews with bowls beginning before the Selection Sunday on Dec. 20 this year.

Officials assigned to bowls are usually all-star crews from conferences. They are assigned postseason games on merit. 

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