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Division I Football Oversight Committee recommends preseason changes

Council to consider measures May 19 to reduce contact and allow for proper preparation

The Division I Football Oversight Committee will ask the Division I Council to make preseason practice changes that protect the health and safety of student-athletes while providing the opportunity to prepare them for the football season.

The proposed changes were informed by a number of data points that suggest the preseason practice period may lead to a disproportionate amount of concussions and head impact exposure, including, among others, information from NCAA member conferences, the NCAA injury surveillance program and the NCAA-Department of Defense Concussion Assessment, Research and Education Consortium. The recommended changes include:

  • Prohibiting drills that create unneeded contact, particularly straight-line contact that is not common to the game.
  • Reducing the maximum number of contact practices from 21 to 18, requiring at least seven helmet-only days (with optional spider pads) and restricting full-pads days to nine.
  • Increasing the acclimatization period from five to seven days.
  • Additional limits on full-contact practices, including no more than two consecutive full-contact practices, a total of no more than 75 minutes of full contact within any practice session and no more than two scrimmages in the preseason.

The committee also will recommend the creation of an annual education requirement to help coaches and staff on campus understand the new requirements and the reasons for the changes.

Mark Harlan, Utah athletics director, led the subcommittee that developed the recommendations. That group had members from the Football Oversight Committee, Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports and the American Football Coaches Association board of directors.

“The challenge in creating this model was to balance the need for a reduction in contact with preparing student-athletes properly to play a football season,” Harlan said. “The framework achieves this and allows coaches appropriate freedom and flexibility.”

Ryan Cassidy, who is on the football team at Rutgers and is a Football Oversight Committee member, said the student-athletes, both on the committee and those they worked with through the Student-Athlete Connection Group, influenced the outcome of the recommendations.

“I think (the committee) really relied on us and the student connection group not only for feedback but also for our experiences,” said Cassidy, who will graduate with a degree in economics later this month. “That is something I was very happy to see.”

The group considered adjusting the length of the preseason but opted to keep the current limit at 25 total practices to begin 29 days before a team’s first contest for 2021. The committee will continue to review and consider potential changes to the regular season, spring practice and out-of-season periods, especially after additional data from the 2021 fall season is available.

The Council will consider the recommendation at its May 19 meeting.