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Pac-12 safety push to focus in part on reducing practice contact


Over the past few years and especially over the past several months, a significant amount of time and effort has been focused on the safety of student-athletes at the collegiate level.  Specifically, how to further reduce the risk of Eric LeGrand-type injuries as well as head injuries at all levels of football.

Monday afternoon, one of the most powerful conferences in the country became the latest to take a significant step in the arena of player safety.

In a release, the Pac-12 announced that it has launched a comprehensive student-athlete health initiative that will be implemented in time for the 2013-14 academic year.  The initiative, unanimously approved by the conference’s presidents and chancellors over the weekend, “will build upon current efforts to improve the health and safety of Pac-12 student-athletes while establishing new activities,” the release stated.

“The group acknowledges that it is impossible to eliminate all injuries, but has developed the initiative to find ways to reduce injuries today, share current best practices and latest studies, and conduct research to uncover new ways to keep student-athletes as safe as possible,” the conference added.

Two of the four prongs of the initiative are directly related to football.

The one that will likely garner the most attention is the creation of a formal policy limiting the amount of contact in practice.  While a uniform policy has yet to be finalized — that’s expected to happen at the Pac-12 football media day July 26 — the conference stated that its group “will look at guidelines around contact in practice to ensure that student-athlete well-being is being closely monitored, both in the amount of contact and in providing our student-athletes and coaches with ample opportunity to teach and learn the correct tackling methods during the spring and preseason.”

Additionally as related to the sport this site covers, the conference will continue the push to reduce injuries from the neck up by creating a Head Trauma Task Force.  That group, headed by the Pac-12’s General Counsel and Director of Football and will include coaches, administrators and doctors from Pac-12 institutions, will look to find ways to limit damage and exposure to student-athletes.

“Pac-12 institutions house the leading medical trainers, doctors, and scientists working to enhance student-athlete health and well being,” said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott in a statement. “Our athletic departments and coaches have been very progressive in this area and are deeply committed to advancing these efforts,” he added. “This initiative seizes on our opportunity to embrace, support, and coordinate all these efforts and build a framework to advance them with new resources, expertise and funding.”

Other prongs of the initiative include the following:

  • Student-Athlete Health & Well-Being Research Program: Under this new program, the Pac-12 will establish a steering committee of top doctors and researchers from Pac-12 institutions, convene a summit in early 2014 where doctors and researchers share research and joint initiatives, and commit $3.5M in research grants for projects at Pac-12 institutions aimed at improving student-athlete health and well being.
  • Student-Athlete Health Conference: This Pac-12 will lead and enhance the annual Student-Athlete Health Conference. This meeting has been in existence for 10+ years as a forum for doctors and medical trainers from Pac-12 institutions to share best practices, review ongoing research studies and evaluate Pac-12 policies. In its first year as a Pac-12 event, the Pac-12 will introduce new speakers and programs to advance collaboration of all 12 universities, and establish an official process for implementing recommendations put forth by the conference.

“The health and well-being of our more than 7,000 student-athletes competing within the Pac-12 each year is of paramount importance,” said Pac-12 CEO Group chairperson Ed Ray. “This new initiative is a great step towards taking advantage of the full resources of our research institutions for the benefit of our student-athletes.”

No punishment from SEC for Bielema’s sideline interaction with Alabama player

Bret Bielema

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema will not be disciplined by the SEC office for his brief interaction with Alabama offensive lineman Cam Robinson last weekend. A video showing Bielema exaggerating his interaction with Robinson at the end of a play was reviewed by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, and the commissioner has discussed the situation with the Razorbacks coach.

“I visited with Bret over the phone on Monday and we discussed the play that has now become widely reviewed through a brief video clip,” Sankey said in a released statement. “Football is played in an intense competitive environment and I reminded him of the need for head coaches to resolve with their own players issues that may arise, which was his intent. The unsportsmanlike penalty assessed on the play was not directly associated with Bret’s efforts to intervene at the end of the play and we are moving forward in a positive manner.”

That appears to be the end of the discussion regarding Bielema’s act. I personally think there should have been some more done here by the league’s commissioner, but we will see if Bielema avoids putting himself in a similar position moving forward.

Temple announces rare football sellout

Jahad Thomas, Marcus Allen

In the midst of what could be a dream season in South Philadelphia, the Temple Owls announced a rare sellout for a football game this afternoon. The October 31 game at home against Notre Dame has sold out Lincoln Financial Field. This is the first time Temple has sold out two home games in the same season since 1976, when the Owls began playing home games in one of Philadelphia’s pro sports stadiums.

This is the second sellout of the season for Temple, but it is also worth mentioning who the opponents are for those two games; Penn State and Notre Dame. Penn State is always Temple’s biggest draw when they get a chance to host the Nittany Lions and their legions of fans in and around the Delaware Valley. Temple dominated Penn State in the season opener, snapping a long losing streak against the in-state power. Notre Dame is also a big draw everywhere the Irish go, and there is a solid fanbase in the southeastern part of Philadelphia as well.

It is also a rare trip to Philadelphia for Notre Dame. The Irish last played in Philadelphia in 1993 when they faced Navy in Veterans Stadium. Navy also hosted Notre Dame in Philadelphia in 1960, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1972 and 1974. Notre Dame and Temple have never played in Philadelphia, although they did face each other in the 2013 season opener. This year’s game is the second game of a home-and-home series.

The game could potentially prove to play a key role in the evolving College Football Playoff and Group of Five conversation as well. If Temple avoids slipping up this week against UCF and next week at East Carolina and USC holds off USC, then we could have an undefeated and top 25 Temple program hosting a top 15 or even potential top 10 Notre Dame on Halloween. Let’s not put the cart ahead of the horse here, but that could be a very attractive matchup worth paying attention to at the end of the month for many fanbases.