The Ivy League’s decision to put restrictions on full-contact football practices could represent a pivotal moment for player safety on the college level, Princeton head coach Bob Surace told BI this morning.”It gets other coaches out of the dark ages.”
The new rules come after university presidents became “deeply concerned that concussions are a significant injury in football,” according to Ivy League executive director Robin Harris.
“I’ve been clued in on the research,” Surace said. “You can never prevent them, but you can limit them.”
“Look, it’s not an ankle injury,” he added.
With the input of team doctor Margot Putukian, Surace organised rigorous non-contact practices last season, and put an NFL-style system in place to identify possibly head injuries and diagnose them on the spot.
The new league rules limit full-contact practices to two per week during the season and one per day during training camp.
“It’s not going to be a huge adjustment for us,” said Surace, whose program only had “live” practices once or twice a week last year.
The coach, who worked for the Cincinnati Bengals before taking over his alma mater’s program, thinks the sport in general is headed toward the Ivy-League model.
“I think more coaches are going toward that. That’s becoming the trendy kind of practice,” he said.
“You can still be demanding,” Surace added. “But that one day [of non-contact practice] really revitalizes players.”
Still, Surace acknowledge that the recent surge in calls for increased player-safety measures have not been welcome by all corners of the college football world.
“I don’t know if everyone is on the same page,” he admitted.
Surace officially heard about the changes earlier this week. But he and the other Ancient Eight coaches were made aware months ago that the ad hoc committee co-chaired by the presidents of Dartmouth and Cornell could pass down strict regulations.
“We knew it was a strong possibility at the coaches’ meetings in March,” Surace said.
At those meetings, the coaches discussed head injuries, and exchanged ideas about how to build a team of tough-nosed players in an increasingly safety-conscious football landscape.
“There was a time when boxers sparred without head gear,” Surace said. “Those days have adjusted.”
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