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

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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.”

Social media post indicates ex-Miami FB Walter Tucker’s headed to FIU

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 01:  Walter Tucker #44 of the Miami Hurricanes takes the field during a game against the North Carolina Tar Heels  at Sun Life Stadium on November 1, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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While Walter Tucker has left Miami, it doesn’t appear he’l be leaving the state of Florida.

On social media over the weekend, Walter Tucker, by way of Matt Porter of Palm Beach Post, has indicated that he will continue his collegiate playing career at FIU. That football program has not announced one way or the other the fullback’s connection to the football program.

In his Instagram post, Tucker, in addition to revealing his father has cancer, posted a photo of himself superimposed over FIU’s football stadium as well as the hashtags “#FIUNATION,” “#PANTHERNATION.” and “#PANTHERPRIDE.”

 

It’s unclear if Tucker would be eligible to play immediately in 2016 with the Panthers.

Tucker played in 32 games the past three seasons, mainly on special teams. He carried the ball three times for eight yards in 2015, and caught one pass for eight yards the year before.

In February, new Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt announced that Tucker had decided to transfer from The U.

Utah DT Stevie Tu’ikolovatu transferring, reportedly visiting Nebraska over the weekend

Stevie Tu'ikolovatu
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A couple of months before the start of summer camp, Nebraska is in the market for some interior line help.

According to a report from HuskerOnline.com, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu visited Lincoln over the weekend as he continues his search for a new football home. Tu’ikolovatu had decided very recently to transfer out of the Utah football program.

Tu’ikolovatu would provide immediate help to the ‘Huskers as he would be coming in as a graduate transfer.

Last season with the Utes, Tu’ikolovatu played in all 13 games, starting two of those contests. His four fumble recoveries were tied for the lead in the Pac-12 and second nationally.

Pitt RB James Conner tweets his ‘body is clean of cancer’

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 20: Tailback James Conner #24 of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers runs with the ball against the University of Iowa Hawkeyes during a college football game at Heinz Field on September 20, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Hawkeyes defeated the Pitt Panthers 24-20. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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How about some excellent news for a change?

Late Monday afternoon, Pittsburgh running back James Conner tweeted out the words he’s been waiting months to say: “Just got the call that my body is clean of cancer!!!”  The news comes five months after Conner revealed that he had been diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his neck and chest.

It also comes less than two weeks after the back completed his chemotherapy treatments.

The treatment hadn’t kept Conner completely away from the Panthers, however, as the running back was seen on video working out with teammates last month while he has been doing some individuals drills since the start of spring practice this month.  He’s also gotten the “celebrity treatment” during his battle as the back threw out the first pitch at a Pittsburgh Pirates game and made an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said earlier this offseason that he expects Conner to play in 2016.

As a sophomore, Conner was named the ACC’s Player of the Year in 2014.  He was fully expected to leave for the NFL following the 2015 season before the combination of a season-ending knee injury suffered in September and the cancer diagnosis prompted a return to Pitt.

UPDATED 7:47 p.m. ET:  Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi released a statement addressing Conner’s positive medical update.

Over the past six months, James Conner fought cancer the same way he plays football: relentlessly and without surrender. He has inspired and touched so many people in how he has handled this challenge. James is an incredibly special person, and I’m not even thinking about his football ability when I say that. Everyone at Pitt feels blessed to know him and we are tremendously thankful for the wonderful news he received today.

BC QB-turned-WR Troy Flutie charged with drunk driving

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Troy Flutie #16 of the Boston College Eagles makes a pass during the first quarter against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Alumni Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Thanks in very large part to his famous surname, this story will likely generate more headlines and attention than it would if it had involved a “normal” football player.

Be that as it may, Boston College’s Troy Flutie has found himself on the wrong side of the law, with the Metrowest Daily News reporting that the quarterback/wide receiver was arrested on multiple charges following a minor weekend car crash. Specifically, Flutie, the son of former BC wide receiver Darren Flutie and nephew of 1984 Heisman winner Doug Flutie, was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of liquor, possession of an open container of liquor while driving and being a person younger than 21 in possession of liquor. He was also issued a citation for a marked lanes violation.

The Daily News writes that, “[a]ccording to police, Flutie hit a curb, which led to his arrest.” No other details have been made available.

Flutie began his BC career as a quarterback and, after redshirting as a true freshman, played in eight games in 2015. He completed 24-of-49 passes for three touchdowns and an interception during his limited action.  Because of injuries at the position, Flutie was one of four Eagles quarterbacks to attempt at least 42 passes last season.

This spring, Flutie was moved to wide receiver.