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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

New NCAA football rules on recruiting and practice time draw mixed reviews at Washington State and Eastern Washington

Washington State football coach Mike Leach sees a mixed bag of results when assessing new rules that were made all but official on Friday. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Staff and wire report

The NCAA made three major rule changes on Friday. Mike Leach loves one of the changes, hates another and the third likely won’t affect Washington State much one way or the other.

The rule changes are part of a sweeping package voted on by the NCAA’s Division I council on Friday. The package must still be approved by the NCAA Board of Governors on April, 26. The board is expected to approve the changes.

The least impactful rule change says that Division I football players will no longer have multiple contact practices, or “two-a-days,” during a single day in the preseason. The Cougars already do not do this.

“The Council’s action reinforces our commitment to the health and safety of our student-athletes,” said Council chair Jim Phillips, athletic director at Northwestern.

The action comes just a few months after the Division I Committee for Legislative Relief issued a blanket waiver to allow practices to start up to a week earlier.

That decision allowed schools to decide how best to manage their practice schedule while retaining 29 preseason practices.

“We had planned to abide by this anyway in anticipation of it passing,” said Eastern Washington athletic director Bill Chaves.

By the NCAA’s definition, a single day may include a single, three-hour, on-field practice session and a walk-through. During walk-throughs, helmets and pads can’t be worn, and contact is prohibited.

Also, walk-throughs may not include conditioning activities.

Three continuous hours of recovery are required between on-field practice and a walk-through. Activities such as meetings, film review, medical treatment and meals are allowed during recovery time.

Leach has spoken out in favor of the idea to add a 10th assistant coach – one of the changes – after the upcoming season, having said in the past that it will lessen the burden on support staff. While many programs have discussed adding a recruiting coordinator to free up time for the other assistants to focus on coaching their positions, Leach says he would probably add a position coach.

“It would probably be a secondary coach,” Leach told the Spokesman-Review in October. “It would probably go to defense and then (defensive coordinator Alex) Grinch would figure out a way to split it up.”

Grinch currently acts as WSU’s secondary coach, which allows the Cougars to have two wide receivers coaches.

But Leach has spoken out against the third major change, the addition of a mid-December signing period for high school recruits, calling it a “dumb idea” and saying the NCAA should “keep it the way it is right now.”

The board also passed other changes to recruiting, for instance, prospects will be allowed to take official visits, paid for by the school, from April 1 of their junior year through the Sunday before the last Wednesday in June.

Before the change, official visits were not allowed before Sept. 1 of a prospect’s senior year. The change in the recruiting calendar becomes effective Aug. 1 and will first affect the 2019 recruiting class.

The decision by the Division I Council, which oversees the Football Bowl and Football Championship subdivisions must still be approved later this month by the NCAA Board of Directors.

Other rule changes in the package include limiting FBC coaches to 10 days of participation in camps during June and July, and only at facilities regularly used by the school for practice and play, allowing coaches to have recruiting conversations with prospects at such camps and prohibiting prospects from taking official visits in conjunction with their participation at those camps.

The council also tabled a proposal to prevent coaches from offering scholarships to recruits before their junior years of high school.