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NCAA Sets 12-Hour Weeks For Programs Not Playing This Fall

Aug 19, 2020

BOULDER — Barring a change of plans by the Pac-12 — and these days, nothing is impossible — the Colorado Buffaloes' football work schedule will consist of 12 hours per week beginning next Monday through at least Oct. 4.

The schedule was approved Wednesday by the NCAA Division I Council and will apply to all programs not playing this fall. That, of course, includes the Pac-12 and Big Ten, who last week decided to postpone their fall schedules until the spring. 

The approved schedule will allow time for meetings, strength and conditioning, and five hours of on-field activities, with two required days off. The five hours on the field can be skill instruction, during which footballs, helmets and "spider" pads can be used, but no contact will be allowed.

Karl Dorrell's team has yet to conduct a practice with helmets since he was hired Feb. 23. Just weeks after his hiring — and before the Buffs were supposed to start spring ball — college sports were shut down by the Covid-19 pandemic.

That sent all student-athletes home for the remainder of the spring semester in mid-March. They didn't return to campus until mid-June, when they were allowed to begin voluntary on-campus strength and conditioning workouts, as well as player-led workouts.

On July 31, the Pac-12 announced a revised 10-game, conference-only schedule that was set to begin Sept. 26, with Colorado scheduled to open fall camp Aug. 17. That schedule also allowed Dorrell's team to begin daily team walkthroughs in early August.

But the Pac-12 last week reversed course and postponed all fall sports until the spring, as well as men's and women's basketball. Now, the earliest that Pac-12 games in any sport could begin is Jan. 1.

Three of the other Power Five conferences — the SEC, ACC and Big 12 — are still planning to play fall football schedules.

Players and coaches from the Pac-12 and Big Ten, including Colorado's Dorrell, have expressed hope that their conference leaders might have a change of heart, especially if the remaining conferences are able to proceed without many issues caused by the pandemic.

But unless that happens, they will start the 12-hour schedules next week.

Meanwhile, the NCAA Football Oversight Committee will continue the process of looking into what practices might look like after Oct. 4 for those schools that are planning on playing in the spring. They will make a presentation to the council in September.

That still holds the possibility of some semblance of "spring ball in the fall," something coaches in the postponed-until-spring conferences have said would be necessary. If the no-contact rule is stretched throughout the entire fall, it would mean players would have gone more than a full year without full-speed, contact work. As it now stands, Colorado's players will have gone 10 months without any contact work by Oct. 4.

ELIGIBILITY QUESTIONS: Also Wednesday, the council forwarded a recommendation that all fall sports athletes be allowed to "freeze" their eligibilty this season, regardless of how many games they might actually play in. The proposal will go to the Division I Board of Directors, which meets Friday.

If approved, athletes would basically have six years to use five years of eligibility (with redshirt years not mattering). 

Such a proposal could have a significant impact on recruiting because of roster limits, as well as possibly add a financial burden to already strapped athletic departments.

SPRING SCHEDULE CHALLENGES: If the Pac-12 does indeed continue down the current path and play a spring schedule — there are dozens of possible scenarios floating about — it would mean players would play two seasons in one calendar year.

CU's Dorrell told national talk show host Jim Rome earlier this week that such a scenario is "really going to be a challenge."

"It is health and safety, which are the biggest concerns that I have, particularly our big people," Dorrell said. "Usually by the end of any normal season, those position groups are pretty beat up and worn down and physically sore all the time. Usually they need a good recovery period of months to kind of get their bodies back. Now with this other proposition, it could be an issue. We have to try to mitigate it properly with practicing a certain way that maybe can get their health back, and doing some activities that are on the lower end of impact on the early side of this thing so that they can get some recovery time for that second season."