NCAA makes recommendations to reduce contact in practice

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With the football offseason getting ready to move into summer camp mode leading up to the start of the season, the NCAA released a new set of recommended guidelines regarding player safety with a special emphasis on concussion treatments and practice habits. Among the recommendations was a limit of two contact practices per week during the season. The new guidelines are a result of months of collaborative work between the NCAA, College Athletic Trainers’ Society, various medical organizations, coaches and conference commissioners.

Unlike official rule changes, the recommendations released by the NCAA on Monday are said to be working in “real-time,” which allows the NCAA to change or modify the guidelines on the fly as more research becomes available rather than wait for the next season to come around.

“Medicine really is a process that’s much more fluid, which led us to the guideline approach rather than pursuing legislation,” NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline said. “The words we like to use are ‘living, breathing.’ We’d much rather have a living, breathing document that can shift based on emerging evidence.”

However, because these are simply guidelines, it is still up to the conferences and schools to choose to adopt them and make them a standard. The NCAA cannot punish a school or conference for operating under other methods or policies, but it can say “We told you so.” Because this was a combined effort, it is expected these guidelines will be adopted throughout the sport.

“These guidelines are strict in concept but flexible in design, allowing coaches ample freedom to design practice schedules while limiting the amount of full-contact situations that players will experience,” said Montana State University head football coach Rob Ash. “There is no doubt in my mind that coaching staffs across the country at all levels will enthusiastically endorse these guidelines and incorporate them into their football practice regimen.”

The Pac-12 has already instituted a policy limiting conference members to two contact practices per week. Some of these philosophies have started to spread across all levels of football, including the NFL where some teams have rethought the way practices are run.

Here is how the guidelines read, according to the NCAA;

  • Preseason: For days when schools schedule a two-a-day practice, live contact practices are only allowed in one practice. A maximum four live contact practices may occur in a given week, and a maximum of 12 total may occur in the preseason. Only three practices (scrimmages) would allow for live contact in greater than 50 percent of the practice schedule.
  • Inseason, postseason and bowl season: There may be no more than two live contact practices per week.
  • Spring practice: Of the 15 allowable sessions that may occur during the spring practice season, eight practices may involve live contact; three of these live contact practices may include greater than 50 percent live contact (scrimmages). Live contact practices are limited to two in a given week and may not occur on consecutive days.

When it comes to player safety, especially regarding concussions and other forms of head trauma, there really is no bad way to go about establishing new guidelines. The Pac-12 changed their habits last season and any fears about the level of play may have been put to rest as the conference continued to gain praise on a national competitive level. How will these new guidelines be received throughout the country? That remains to be seen, but feel free to share your reactions in the comment section.

Arkansas moving back to natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in 2019

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It’s a new era at Arkansas with Chad Morris and a new athletic director in charge and not even the turf will be spared from seeing changes.

Per the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the school will be moving to a natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium instead of replacing their current artificial turf again as it nears the end of its lifespan.

“Let me say my preference is I love natural grass,” Morris told the paper a few months ago. “That’s just me. Maybe that’s just the high school coach in me.

“Worrying about what the next surface out here looks like is irrelevant to me. I just want to get through a practice and get better today. But I prefer, I’m a natural grass type of guy. I love being on a grass field. There’s nothing better than that in college football, or football period.”

Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek confirmed this weekend that the change was being made in Fayetteville after the 2018 season concludes. The current turf was put in back in the Bobby Petrino era in 2009 and will need to be replaced after a decade or so of heavy use.

This will not be the end of Razorbacks playing on turf however, as they will not only see the stuff for games at neutral sites and at other SEC opponents but also when they make their annual trek to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock — which had turf installed a dozen years ago.

West Virginia President on old Big 12 expansion craze: “It was a little bit messy”

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E. Gordon Gee is one of college athletics’ most recognizable figures, which isn’t exactly what you typically say about school leaders like him. The West Virginia President known for his trademark bow tie (and who has never shied away from an interview or a quip he didn’t like) is on the cusp of his first set of spring meetings in the conference as the new chairman of the Big 12 board of directors.

Speaking to the Dallas Morning News about a range of issues around the league prior to meeting in Dallas, Gee seems to have come around on conference expansion from a few years ago and thinks it not only could have been handled better, but it probably shouldn’t be done in the first place because being the smallest Power Five league has its advantages too.

“I’m not certain it was the best way to do it,” Gee told the paper. “It was a little bit messy — and I was part of the mess.

“Intimacy gives us an opportunity to do something that a lot of other places can’t do… We’ll play to our strengths. We’re small, but we can be very aggressive in positioning ourselves uniquely.”

I’m sure the folks at places like Houston and BYU would agree the entire process was messy but will certainly disagree with Gee about the Big 12 sticking with just 10 members. It certainly sounds as though the issue has been put to bed for the foreseeable future but if the merry-go-round gets going once again, at least we know that the process everybody goes through will be a lot different.

College Football Hall of Fame adds title sponsor

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The College Football Hall of Fame is no longer the College Football Hall of Fame. Well, it is, but it isn’t.

It’s still a massive museum dedicated to honoring our nation’s greatest sport, but it will no longer be known by that name. The Atlanta-based Hall has added a title sponsor, and it’s the same corporation that sponsors everything else college football within Atlanta, from the Peach Bowl to Paul Johnson‘s sock drawer (presumably) — Chick-fil-A.

The new name and logo was unveiled Thursday.

As of press time, there was no word on if the first 100,000 CFT readers will receive a free 12-pack of nuggets upon entry.

Report: Cannabis oil not the reason C.J. Harris denied walk-on opportunity at Auburn

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A major brouhaha broke out on social media last last week when it was reported that C.J. Harris was denied by the NCAA an opportunity to walk-on at Auburn because of his prescription for cannabis oil, which he uses to prevent epileptic seizures. Harris claims to be seizure free since January 2017 thanks to the medication.

“After Auburn coaches and staff took a second look at his medical records, they told Harris’ father Curtis that his son could not compete in NCAA athletics while he was taking cannabis oil,” reported WGXA-TV, which broke the story.

“You’re taking something away from a kid who’s worked so hard in his life to get there,” Curtis Harris, the player’s father, said. “And you’re just taking it away because he’s taking a medication that’s helping with his disability.”

But according to Brandon Marcello of Auburn Undercover, the story is more complicated than that. A source told Marcello that it was Auburn’s doctors, and not NCAA rules, that will prevent Harris from suiting up for the Tigers. Writes Marcello:

Auburn’s team physician did not clear Harris due to the pre-existing medical conditions, a source close to the Auburn football program said. The Auburn medical staff was concerned about the epilepsy and wanted to protect his well being in a full-contact sport that could lead to head trauma, the source said.

That information will not stop people from ripping on the NCAA, however, largely because it’s fun to rip on the NCAA.

But the Harris situation is a flashpoint in a larger cultural issue. Public opinion on marijuana is changing — 61 percent of Americans believe it should be legal, according to a Pew Research poll in January, an increase from 57 percent in 2017 and a massive leap from the 31 percent who thought the same in 2000 — and cannabis is already legal for purchase on a medical basis in 29 states. And the opinion of Auburn’s doctors doesn’t change the fact Harris would still be ineligible under current NCAA rules.

However, the NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports has discussed “medical marijuana and CBD products at recent meetings” and will do so again at its next gathering in June, according to SB Nation. The Harris situation — and the subsequent public reaction — should be a a topic of conversation.