In an effort to cut down on concussions, head trauma and other injuries, the Pac-12 Conference is establishing a league-wide policy to limit the amount of contact made during football practices beginning this season.
Commissioner Larry Scott said Monday that the conference will limit hits to numbers “less than what the NCAA permits,” while many of the schools already have their own “self-imposed limits.” Now, there will be an across-the-board rule in an effort to decrease head trauma and other injuries.
“In our discussions it became clear this is a topic our coaches are focused on,” Scott said. “There is a high degree of awareness about it and a deep commitment to it. It was a high priority.”
Details of how the conference will monitor each school’s hits and contact are still being worked out. Scott expects everything to be in place by late July.
The Pac-12 CEO Group, made up of school presidents, agreed on the plan during weekend meetings in Park City, Utah, as part of the conference’s new comprehensive “student-athlete health initiative” developed to improve the health and safety of the league’s 7,000 student-athletes. The meeting also included athletic directors and other representatives from the 12 schools.
There have been some 200 research projects by the conference schools related to the subject of health and safety for student-athletes, Scott said.
“The first step here is we’re going to be codifying new Pac-12 policies on hits and contact in practice that are less than what the NCAA permits,” Scott said. “We have studied and discussed with our coaches what progress the NFL has made in terms of looking at what happens in practice and reducing the cumulative impact and cumulative hits that occur in practice, and trying to apply policies that are appropriate for college.”
During nine months of study of the NFL’s efforts to decrease concussions, and input from doctors and athletic trainers, the Pac-12 decided — based on Scott’s recommendation — to move forward with a plan of its own that fits into the “teaching” approach of college football and its NCAA-mandated 20-hour week rule. After “lessons learned” last season, the Pac-12 also is working to restructure its leadership for men’s basketball officiating. Scott said the conference is thinking broadly rather than focusing on having just one person in charge. He expects to announce more within the next couple of weeks.
During the Pac-12 tournament, the conference learned that former officiating coordinator Ed Rush had offered bounties — $5,000 or a trip to Mexico — for any official who disciplined Arizona coach Sean Miller. While Rush has said he wasn’t serious and was “jokingly” trying to “lighten the mood” in the locker room, he resigned April 4.
“I’m completely looking forward, not in the rearview mirror,” Scott said, ready to move past the public scrutiny of the officiating program. Findings of an independent review by Indianapolis-based law firm Ice Miller LLP confirmed the conference’s handling of the situation this spring.
“The report speaks for itself,” Scott said. “It was my hope and expectation that that allows everyone to turn a chapter and put the issues that happened in Las Vegas behind us and allows us to start fresh. Ed Rush resigned and we’re going to have new leadership and a new structural element to our program going forward.”
Scott fined Miller $25,000 for a rant — he was hit with a technical — during and after the Wildcats’ two-point semifinal loss to UCLA in the conference tournament. The conference said Miller confronted an official on the floor among other inappropriate actions.
Now, Scott anticipates seeing Miller and moving on.
“It’s a fresh start, from my perspective, and I’m look forward to spending time with Sean before the season and making sure he has a chance to engage with the new leadership of our basketball officiating program once that’s established,” Scott said, “and I have no questions or concerns about the great relationship we’re going to have going forward.”
In other topics covered in Scott’s conference call Monday, he said the Pac-12 Networks would increase coverage of live events from 550 to 750 in the second year with what Scott called “an unprecedented number of Olympic events.”
“We’re projected to be profitable in Year 1 of the Pac-12 Networks and we’re projected to be profitable again next year. This is as successful of a sports network in its first year as we’ve seen,” he said. “This was a historic year for the conference on many levels.”