— Sports

NCAA aims for less contact in preseason football practice

The NCAA football oversight committee is preparing to recommend changes to preseason camp, including fewer fully padded practices and eliminating some old-school collision drills. Of course, the latest move to scale back contact is in response to a five-year study involving six major college football teams that found more head impact exposure and concussions in preseason practice than during games.

The committee’s initial proposal called for at least nine of a team’s 25 preseason practices with players wearing helmets but no other pads and no more than eight fully-padded, full-contact practices. That proposal went out to the NCAA members for feedback two weeks ago.

The committee is scheduled to meet Thursday again. West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons, the committee chairman, said the plan is to hand over a final recommendation for a new preseason model for the Division I Council to consider at its May 19 meeting.

If passed, the new model would go into effect this year.

Lyons refers to the model as 9-8-8: eight days of players practicing in helmets and shoulder pads with no live tackling to the ground, nine days in just helmets, and no more than eight full-contact days. The current proposal would also limit full-contact practices to no more than two consecutive days.

“We’re trying to provide as much flexibility within the model as possible and not dictate what days they get to do what, and give each coach the ability to coach how they want to,” Lyons said. “But then also limit the number of contacts we currently have from a direct hit, head-to-head contacts you currently have in practices.”


During live-tackling practices, the initial proposal will permit no more than 90 minutes of full contact. “What I’m hearing, a lot of coaches aren’t using 90 minutes so that we may look and say, ‘Is that 75 minutes?’” Lyons said.training camp. The teams involved in the study were Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Wisconsin, UCLA, Air Force, and Army.

Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, said there was some concern among coaches that Army and Air Force would skew the study data. He said that the two academies play a run-heavy, triple-option offense that can lend itself to more contact.

Overall, Berry said the study is helping guide changes many coaches were already moving toward.

“We wanted things based on data rather than assumptions,” Berry said.

Berry said that NCAA rules currently mandate at least two of 25 preseason practices be contactless and conducted without pads, but a survey found that most coaches already run about six of those leading up to the season. He said going to nine padless practices, essentially walk-throughs

seems like a drastic change to coaches. To us, that’s a giant leap,” Berry said. “We’d rather take a step and then measure the results and say, ‘OK, we ended up in a good place.’ And take another step and keep improving along those lines.” Coaches have been moving away from high-impact drills such as Bull in the Ring and the Oklahoma drill, where players mostly run into each other.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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