The Ivy League, as you’re probably aware, has taken the step of cancelling live tackling in practices during the season to cut down on the risk of player injury. One of the motivating factors for that was the experience Columbia University’s football team has had using a mechanized tackling dummy in practice – something it’s been doing for five years.
Buddy Teevens told Dan Patrick on air this morning that his program hasn’t tackle live during practice in five years and he and his staff have turned that into part of their recruiting pitch, telling recruits that they will “never tackle one of their teammates in their four of five years on campus” . Last year, Teevens made a splash with the introduction of Dartmouth’s Mobile Virtual Player (MVP), a groundbreaking mobile pop-up dummy that can simulate a ball carrier, or a second level defender for offensive lineman to practice their cut blocks on.
When I saw Teevens speak at the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association a few weeks ago as part of the Practice Like the Pros speaking circuit, he said when he first told his defensive coordinator of the no-tackling policy he looked back at him like he was crazy.
It didn’t take long for him to see the benefits though. Teevens told Dan Patrick and his crew that after their first season implementing the changes, missed tackles at Dartmouth dropped “literally 50%.” Let that sink in for a second. No live tackling, only dummies, and immediate results. Think of how much better your program would have been last season if you could have cut your missed tackles in half.
When asked if they practice tackling at Dartmouth, Teevens responded, “We do. A lot of high schools do a wonderful job, but to hone skills and keep them sharp. The hard thing is, it’s the most injurious skill on the football field, and it is practiced the least as a result.”
“By doing it with bags, we become a lot more consistent, and a lot more confident by player. And actually, the first season we went to this we dropped our missed tackles literally 50%. We cut them in half.”
Better safety and better fundamentals? How great is that?
Pretty great, except for one thing. It’s an NCAA rule violation.
But after our piece ran yesterday, it was brought to our attention that, by our interpretation, the NCAA has stated using Dartmouth’s MVP or anything of the sort is unethical.
Page FR-10 of the 2015 NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations book (download a free PDF here) details “Coaching Ethics.” The section header reads:
“Deliberately teaching players to violate the rules is indefensible. The coaching of intentional holding, beating the ball, illegal shifting, feigning injury, interference, illegal forward passing or intentional roughing will break down rather than aid in the building of the character of players. Such instruction is not only unfair to one’s opponent but is demoralizing to the players entrusted to a coach’s care and has no place in a game that is an integral part of an educational program.”
The section then outlines unethical practices, point by point. Point A discourages teams from changing players’ numbers during a game to deceive the opponent. Point B outlaws using the helmet as a weapon.
Point C reads, “Using a self-propelled mechanical apparatus in the teaching of blocking and tackling.”
You literally can’t make that shit up.
Football Scoop has reached out to Rogers Redding for an explanation, and I, for one, can’t wait to hear it.