HOLLYWOOD – When it came to the topic of eliminating two-a-day, full-contact practices, coaches who addressed reporters at Pac-12 Media Days in Hollywood on Wednesday seemed to be saying variations of the same things.
First, player safety is the priority. Second, two-a-day practices didn’t qualify as slugfests even before the NCAA Division 1 Council voted in April to limit contact practices to one per day during the preseason, allowing for a second, walk-through session, free of helmets and pads.
“I’m a proponent of the elimination of two-a-days,” said UCLA coach Jim Mora, later adding, “These are young men we’re dealing with, and player safety has to be a premium. The percentage of these young men that go on and make a living at this is minuscule. So I’m in agreement with it, very much so.”
Oregon State coach Gary Andersen said he’d rather keep two-a-days. But he also said OSU double-day practices were “way different” and weren’t a “bludgeoning.”
“One thing we’ll do this year is we will have two-a-days, but we just won’t hit and bang,” he said. “We’ll still have those taxing mental practices that are 18 days of mental reps, which is so very, very important. I think you get just as much out of that as you get out of the physicality of two-a-days.”
The NCAA Division 1 Council’s decision was endorsed by the NCAA Sport Science Institute and leading scientific and sports medicine organizations, according to an article on NCAA.com.
Preseason practices can now start up to a week earlier, allowing “schools to decide how best to manage their practice schedule while retaining 29 preseason practices,” the article reads.
The changes have forced teams to adjust on the fly.
“I think adding the days that they did to the front end of the practice schedule, while it’s been a challenge because it happened late, it’s forced us to, even up until today, adjust how we’re going to practice, when we’re going to practice,” Mora said.
Still, the UCLA coach said, safety trumps convenience.
“I think we have to be conscious of player safety. When you see a study that came out the other day (published in The Journal of the American Medical Association) with the deceased NFL players’ brains that they studied and you saw the high rate of CTE,” Mora said, “that doesn’t just happen when they go to the NFL, that starts at an early age. So we have to be conscious of those things.”
Washington coach Chris Petersen, who stated his dislike of starting practice earlier and having less time off for players and coaches, said the Huskies “really haven’t done two-a-days for a long time.”
“We had a thing where we did have a ball, it was very controlled, not in pads when we did two-a-days last year, and I think it was awesome. I’m really discouraged that they took that away from us,” he said. “I think they haven’t done enough research to figure out — and I know our team doctors did see what we did in our, quote, two-a-days, and it was one of the best things we did in terms of mentally getting them along.”
The rule, however, does allow for a contact-free session that can start no less than three hours after the first. It’s an aspect Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre appreciates.
“I think that it’s better for the welfare of the player, and I’ve been saying it for a while,” he said.
The contact portion of practices may last no longer than three hours.
For high schools in the CIF-Southern Section, teams are allowed two days per week of full contact practice, with no more than 90 minutes of full contact on each of those days.
“This includes live action and thud,” reads the Southern Section Blue Book.
“Thud,” according to the Southern Section 2016 season preview, is defined as “a drill run at an assigned speed through the moment of contact with no pre-determined winner. Contact remains above the waist and players stay on their feet.”