LOS ANGELES – When the NCAA voted last spring to eliminate two-a-day, full-contact practices, most coaches gave the decision a thumbs-up.
Now they’re scrambling to adjust.
Arizona State coach Todd Graham, who was against the idea, and two of his players flew into Los Angeles for the Pac-12 Media Days, then headed back to Phoenix for another practice the same day.
As Graham sees it, the move is costing the game some of its “hard-core toughness and discipline and all that stuff.”
It’s also costing the players another commodity that’s becoming scarcer every year: time.
Teams still can hold two practices on a given day, but one of those practices can only be a “walkthrough” that includes no contact, helmets, pads or conditioning activities. Three hours of recovery are required between a practice and a walkthrough, though meetings can be held during that period.
Like many teams, the Sun Devils are reporting early, because the NCAA still allows teams to hold 29 practice sessions before the first game. Teams will use most of their opportunities for full-contact practice, forcing an earlier start for everyone.
“I don’t think they made (the rules) for the right reason, because of the well-being of our athletes,” Graham said. “We’re reporting a week and a half early … usually they’re home with their families, so that’s different.”
Stanford coach David Shaw was even more emphatic.
“I think it was an overreaction, to a certain degree,” said Shaw, who also appeared on Thursday in Hollywood.
Like many teams, the Cardinal never had two-a-days in full pads, so Shaw questioned the logic of the decision.
“I do believe that we should continue to have those discussions and maybe go back to the point where we don’t come in a week early and we’re able to take the minimum number of opportunities to do two-a-days as long as you abide by these rules, which only so much tackling and only so much hitting, because the second practice of our two-a-days, our plan was to be non-padded,” Shaw said.
For Shaw, the second day of two-a-days had always been used as “another opportunity to be on the field and teach and have skill development.”
Shaw also seemed rankled by the time constraints.
“So now we’re going to take away another week away from their summer, another week of their training and those internships and summer school the guys are doing,” Shaw said.
Meanwhile, UCLA coach Jim Mora is a big supporter of the rule, saying that “player safety has to be at a premium.”
At Oregon State, coach Gary Andersen promised two-a-days, “but we just won’t hit and bang. We’ll stil have those taxing mental practices that are 18 days of mental reps, which is so very, very important.”
Meanwhile, Washington State coach Mike Leach managed to inject some humor into a hot-button topic.
The Cougars haven’t employed two-a-days “in quite some time,” said Leach. “If you overtrain, it’s counterproductive.”
For that reason, Leach said other teams should be able to hit as hard and as often as they want.
“I think they ought to have four-a-days so hopefully some of these teams will pound their teams into submission and make our work a little easier for us.”
Did the Ducks really fall that far?
To hear new coach Willie Taggart, you’d think the Oregon football program was building from the ground up.
Or from ground zero, the victim of some catastrophic meltdown.
Then again, the Ducks went 4-8 last year – a big dropoff for a program that posted the fourth-best record in the nation during the previous decade while appearing in two national title games.
Hired to replace the fired Mark Helfrich (who went 38-18 in four years), Taggart appeared to set the bar quite low on Thursday.
After citing the need to “change the culture” in Eugene, Taggart said he hopes to see a payoff in the weight room, “seeing their confidence grow” and “holding themselves accountable.”
Not a pretty bowl picture
And what awaits the top teams at the end of the season? Another not-so-attractive slate of bowl games.
Here they are:
Las Vegas Bowl: Dec. 16, 12:30 p.m. on ABC vs. Mountain West
Cactus Bowl: Dec. 26th, 6 p.m. on ESPN vs. Big 12
Foster Farms Bowl: Dec. 27, 5:30 p.m. on Fox vs. Big Ten
Holiday Bowl: Dec. 28, 6 p.m. on FS1 vs. Big Ten
Alamo Bowl: Dec. 28, 6 p.m. on ESPN vs. Big 12
Sun Bowl: Dec. 29, 12 p.m. on CBS vs. ACC/Notre Dame
That doesn’t include the Rose Bowl, which will double as a national semifinal and perhaps keep the Pac-12 out of Pasadena.
Die-hard fans, take note: the Holiday and Alamo, which get the second and third picks from the Pac-12, will kick off at the same time.
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