During this semester, students have been able to play multiple sports at BYU-Idaho, but not without many changes and restrictions.
In previous years, football at BYU-I was usually flag football. Now, once the player catches the ball, the defense does not have to tackle the player or pull their flag. Instead, the play ends right where the receiver catches the ball.
Miguel Ruiz, a freshman studying biology, is in his first year as a football referee.
“I guess the biggest adjustment is adjusting to the new COVID rules,” Ruiz said. “The game is different, we have to call different plays and be strict about physical contact and anything like that.”
No contact whatsoever is allowed by any player. If a player illegally contacts another player, the referee will throw their penalty flag and penalize the player who initiated the contact. The game is played on a football field that is 40 yards long — 60 yards shorter than a standard-sized football field. The offense starts on one side of the field and has to go 40 yards to the end zone to score a touchdown. The offense only has three plays to get a first down, compared to four plays in a normal game.
Because of the multiple changes to the sport, not many penalties get called by the referees.
Alec Holman, a senior studying public health, is the head referee at BYU-I. He has been a football referee for about a year and a half.
“This is the third version of football I’ve had to learn in as many semesters,” Holman said. “No contact, keeping the players in a different version than anybody has ever seen before, can be a little interesting.”
Every person must wear a mask, including the students and the referees. Wearing a face covering during the games may seem like a small adjustment to many people, but it can be a nuisance for many of the players and referees. It can be harder for the players to breathe with a mask on while playing because of all of the running that they have to do throughout the game.
“Throughout the whole semester, it’s been interesting because pretty much every week we either come up with new (things) or add tweaks and twists to the rules that kind of make it a little tough to have full-on consistency and understanding for the players throughout the semester,” Holman said.
Referees have to find ways to blow their whistles while wearing a mask, which, according to the referees, can be quite troublesome. Many decide to keep theirs in their mouth under the mask. They find it more convenient than struggling to pull it from under the mask after each blow of the whistle. Some even use hand whistles, which are used by pressing a button that makes a whistleblowing sound.
“It’s probably not their favorite,” Holman said. “I think it could be better, but you know, it’s an opportunity for them to get out and have a fun and spiritual time on this BYU-Idaho campus.”
Click here for more information about sports at BYU-I.