NCAA Allows Equal National Championship Practice Time for Alabama and Clemson

Justin FergusonCFB National AnalystJanuary 4, 2016

Clemson HC Dabo Swinney
Clemson HC Dabo SwinneyJohn David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Updated: Thursday, Jan. 7

Differing academic calendars and an NCAA rule would have given Alabama more available practice time than Clemson ahead of the CFP National Championship Game.

But now the Tigers and the Tide will have equal preparation for the title matchup.

According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN, the NCAA has given a waiver to Clemson that will allow the Tigers to exceed the "20-hour rule" for practices:

Earlier this week, McMurphy and ESPN colleague Ted Miller reported Clemson had started its spring semester, and the football team wouldn't be allowed to practice as much as Alabama. 

When school is in session, NCAA football teams are limited to only 20 hours of "countable athletic activities" per week. "Practices, weightlifting and any film sessions or meetings required by coaches" are countable athletic activities that fall under the 20-hour rule, according to the report.

The rule was set to kick in Wednesday for Clemson, but the waiver will allow the Tigers to prepare for as much time as they want.

Alabama, on the other hand, won't start its spring semester until Jan. 13—two days after the national title game in Glendale, Arizona. The Crimson Tide were already allowed to have unlimited practice and team meeting time.

End of update

The NCAA's 20-hour rule rarely affected postseason play until the advent of the College Football Playoff system last season.

Last season, Ohio State benefited from this rule ahead of its College Football Playoff title game against Oregon, as the Ducks had less practice time than the Buckeyes. Ohio State went on to beat Oregon, 42-20.

Jan 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Joshua Perry (37) tries to tackle Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) during the game at AT&T Stadium. The Buckeyes defeated the Ducks 42-20. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

While McMurphy and Miller noted Oregon coach Mark Helfrich called the difference in practice time "a bit of an annoyance," Ohio State linebacker Joshua Perry said the Buckeyes might have had some sort of advantage because of it. 

"I would say the one thing that was advantageous to us was we weren't worried about getting a new syllabus or shaking a professor's hand and trying to figure things out for a semester," Perry said, per McMurphy. "Is that a huge advantage? No, because you go the whole season doing the same thing anyway. You're in class and you've got to game plan."

According to Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said the Buckeyes went "way below" the 20-hour rule in their preparation for last year's title game:

Per Odds Shark, the Tigers are currently listed as seven-point underdogs to the Crimson Tide for next week's title game.


Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.