The Pac-12 will reduce the number of contact football practices per week, conference commissioner Larry Scott announced Tuesday on a teleconference with the media.
The NCAA currently allows a maximum of five contact practices per week. As part of the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Health Initiative, Scott said the conference will put "limits on hits and contact in practice that are less than what the NCAA permits.''
But he said the particulars of that policy won't be announced until Pac-12 media day on July 26th.
Is this a good thing for the conference?
The benefit for the student-athlete is obvious. The link between traumatic injuries from sports and degenerative brain disorders is becoming more defined.
But there could be a downside to this policy in terms of competition.
When USC was stripped of 30 scholarships over a three-year period due to the NCAA finding it had given impermissible benefits to student-athletes, head coach Lane Kiffin had to resort to no-tackle practices to keep his players healthy, and the results on the field weren't pretty. From ESPN's Pedro Moura's 2011 report:
Players and coaches alike continuously attributed the struggle with tackling in games to their lack of tackling in practices but maintained that USC had no other option because of its clear lack of depth and capable backups at some positions.
The Student-Athlete Health Initiative helps USC. The Trojans will now be facing conference foes who will have had the same limited contact that they were forced to resort to over the past few years.
But this could also affect the Pac-12's success against non-conference foes.
The Pac-12 has been portrayed as a conference lacking defense. This new policy may solidify that reputation. It may also add years to these athletes' lives.
So which is more important?
Shouldn't a governing body that puts the student before athlete have implemented this new policy years ago? Many schools have limited-contact practices well-below the NCAA's current five.
NCAA President Mark Emmert says that the Association's "priorities are student-athlete well-being and protection of the collegiate model."
The Pac-12 has decided that lip service is simply not enough anymore.
Quotes from Larry Scott were obtained first hand.
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