Pac-12 Conference establishes new football contact policy as part of student-athlete health initiative

Los Angeles, Calif. – The Pac-12 Conference and its football coaches have agreed to a new contact policy that goes beyond the limitations cur-rently imposed by the NCAA, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott announced today at Pac-12 Football Media Day. These parameters are expected to be codified into an official Conference policy in August by the Pac-12 Athletic Directors and be in place for this season.

The new Conference-wide policy reflects many of the core principles already practiced by Pac-12 coaches. It provides limitations on the frequency of contact in practice, time for student-athletes to recover from full-contact practices, and an environment in which coaches can teach student-athletes the core fundamentals of football.

“The Pac-12 Conference is proud to take the lead on this issue and formal-ize our collective dedication to protecting the safety and health of our student-athletes,” said Scott. “This policy reiterates the Conference’s focus on student-athlete well-being while giving coaches ample opportunity to teach the correct tackling methods throughout the year.”

The full language of the policy is included on page three, but specific changes to the contact rules include limiting teams to two full-contact practices per week during the regular season, limiting the contact during two-a-days during preseason, and limiting the number of full-contact practices per week in the spring to two.

To help craft the parameters, the Conference worked closely with Pac-12 coaches to understand current practice. Pac-12 coaches were integral to the drafting process. In addition, the Conference consulted with medical practitioners, Pac-12 athletic directors, and student-athletes. The final guidelines reflect their input.

“Our coaches support the new parameters and their feedback helped us strike an important balance that limits contact across all seasons, but allows for our teams to be sharp and compete at the highest level,” concluded Scott.   

Student-Athlete Health Initiative
Commissioner Scott also announced a plan to move forward with the Student-Athlete Health & Well-Being Research Program and Head Trauma Task Force originally put forth at the Pac-12 summer meetings in June. The Pac-12 team, along with a soon-to-be-named blue-ribbon research board, will set priorities and develop our funding strategy in the coming year that will begin in 2014.

Under this new program, the Pac-12 will convene a summit in early 2014 where doctors and researchers share research and joint initiatives, and commit $3.5M in research grants for projects at Pac-12 institutions aimed at improving student-athlete health and well being.

Also, the Pac-12 continues to seek out innovative research and technology to improve the health and safety of its student-athletes. The Conference is exploring having a few Pac-12 teams participate in a pilot study this sea-son looking at the benefits of using RFID chips in shoulder pads to monitor movement.

USA Football Partnership
The final health-related announcement from Pac-12 Media Day was the Conference’s new partnership with USA Football and its Heads Up Football program. USA Football is the national governing body that leads the game’s development – particularly at youth and high school levels – for a better, safer game.

Starting this year, the Pac-12 and its football coaches will take an active role in supporting Heads Up Football and promoting the mission of the pro-gram through PSAs as well as additional opportunities at Pac-12 Championship Game.

“Every youth football player’s health and safety is vital to us and Heads Up Football provides clear direction to coaches, parents and players to ad-vance this priority,” USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck said. “Commissioner Scott and the Pac-12 share our vision to advance a better, safer game for every young athlete through our Heads Up Football program. This partnership will bring lasting benefits to our youngest players who gain so much through the fun and play of an extraordinary team sport.”

Pac-12 Conference Football Practice Policy
*Subject to approval by Pac-12 Athletics Directors

Statement and Purpose
The Pac-12 Conference is dedicated to protecting the safety, health and well being of its student-athletes.  To this end, the Conference, its Presidents and Chancellors, Athletic Directors, and Football Coaches have agreed to establish parameters for football practice and participation that go beyond the limitations currently imposed by the NCAA.  This Policy codifies many of the principles already practiced by our head football coaches.

Core Principles
Proper football technique and mechanics, especially when blocking and tack-ling are involved, should be the priority at every football practice.  The core, upper body and lower body should be utilized for contact and players should be taught to avoid using the helmet to initiate contact.   Players initiating contact should neither utilize their helmet in play-making nor target the recipient of a block or tackle above the shoulders. 

Rules
A. NCAA Rules—except where expressly limited below, Pac-12 institutions shall continue to abide by the football practice rules and regulations outlined in the annual NCAA Division I Manual.

B. Definition of “Full-Contact”—The Pac-12 will define “full contact” as any live tackling, live tackling drills, scrimmages or other activi-ties where players are generally taken to the ground.  “Full contact” shall not include “thud” sessions or drills that involve “wrapping up” where players are not taken to the ground and contact is not aggres-sive in nature.

C. Fall / In-Season Practices—Pac-12 institutions shall only have two (2) full-contact practices per week during the football regular season (“regular season” being defined as the period between the first regu-lar season game and the last regular season game or Pac-12 Champion-ship Game (for participating institutions).

D. Preseason Practices—For days in which Pac-12 institutions schedule a two-a-day practice, full-contact shall only be allowed in one practice (the other practice is limited to helmets and shoulder pads). If full-contact practices are scheduled consecutively around one of the two-a-day full-contact practices, only one of those practices shall be more than 50% full-contact.  By way of example, if a morning session of a two-a-day practice is full-contact, that morning session practice or the preceding one-a-day practice would be limited to no more than 50% full-contact.

E. Spring Practices—Pac-12 institutions shall schedule spring practices so that of the eight (8) permissible full-contact practices, only two (2) of those full-contact practices occur in a given week.  (NCAA rules define these eight (8) practices as practices involving “tack-ling”.)  This rule will be subject to instances where inclement weather or other unforeseen circumstances have constricted or other-wise altered a previously finalized spring schedule that complied with this rule. 
 

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