2020-21 Bayou Classic Southern vs. Grambling

SU QB Ladarius Skelton throws pass in Saturday's Bayou Classic played at Independence Stadium at Shreveport, La., April 17, 2021. Photo by TOM MORRIS

In a first for college football, the Grambling State and Southern football teams will be allowed to use coach-to-player communication during Saturday’s Bayou Classic at the Caesars Superdome after receiving a waiver from the NCAA.

It was announced Monday that the NCAA Football Rules Committee had approved the waiver, allowing a coach to speak directly to one player on the field who has a receiver in his helmet.

The NFL has used the practice for two decades, but has not been used in the NCAA because of costs and other operating logistics, the NCAA said in a Monday release.

Saturday’s game will amount to a test run on the college level.

"There are many technology initiatives that have been discussed in the NCAA Football Rules Committee, and coach-to-player communications continues to be the top technology request from our coaches to study," national coordinator of officials Steve Shaw said in a statement. "With the approval of the rules waiver for this specific game to allow a test for this initiative, I look forward to getting feedback from both schools on the value and feasibility of coach-to-player communications."

Grambling and Southern will have to follow a list of guidelines during Saturday’s game:

  • Coach-to-player communications must be switched off by a neutral party designated by game management when the play clock goes below 15 seconds and must stay off through the end of live ball action. 
  • If there is a total failure for either team’s system, communications will be shut off for both teams until the issue is resolved. 
  • Each team will be allowed to have eight players who have helmets that can receive communications, but there can only be one player with a helmet receiver on the field at one time. On special teams plays, only one player from each team may have a receiver on the field.
  • Each team is required to place an identifying sticker on the back of each helmet that contains a receiver, making it clearly visible to officials. 

Interim Southern coach Jason Rollins is eager to see how the technology helps his team on the field. 

“This can be a game changer for college football," Rollins said in a release. "When we found out that we were going to have this opportunity, we called around and spoke to a few (NFL) people on how this can help. They all had positive things to say. It keeps the players focused on the game plan and how a play should be executed."

Email Patrick Magee at PMagee@TheAdvocate.com or follow him on Twitter, @Patrick_Magee.