Category Archives: The Body Is A Temple

Skin in the kickoff game

If you’ve watched any Alliance of American Football action (and before you ask, I haven’t), you may have noticed an absence of kickoffs.

The AAF debuted last weekend without toe meeting pigskin following scores. Offenses simply took over at the 25-yard line. No high-speed blocks, tackles or collisions. Definitely no injuries.

“It felt a little awkward,” said Atlanta Legends coach Kevin Coyle, a veteran of more than 40 college and pro seasons. “For me personally, it felt strange not to kickoff and cover the kick.”

Obviously no kickoffs = less injury chances, which has started another drum beat about what college football ought to do about that.

The thing is, the rule changes already enacted have had their desired effect.

  • For the first time since the NCAA began tracking such numbers, less than half of all kickoffs — only 42 percent — were returned last season.
  • For at least the fifth straight year, touchbacks are up. The 2018 total of 4,273 was up almost 28 percent since 2013.
  • The total number of kickoffs returned for touchdowns is down almost half from 72 in 2012 to 38 in 2018.
  • Kickoff return yards are down 42.2 percent since 2011. That was the last season before the kickoff was moved from the 30 to the 35-yard line.

Still, that’s probably not satisfying for the all or nothing crowd.  So what’s an NCAA rules committee to do?  Well, if you’re Steve Shaw, you raise an interesting defense of the status quo.

“Imagine Georgia-Florida and the place is up for grabs and we just jog out and put it on the ground,” he said. “I think we want to do everything we can do to protect the play.”

That’s the most empowered I’ve ever felt about an NCAA rule change.

By the way, thanks for getting the name of the game right, Steve.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics, The Body Is A Temple, The NCAA

Body blows

You would think this would be an obvious slam dunk to correct.

Whenever an Oregon football player struggled, vomited or fainted during a strenuous January 2017 workout, two lawsuits allege, their teammates would be punished with additional repetitions. Three Ducks players were hospitalized following the session and diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, an overexertion-induced syndrome that damages muscle fibers and releases their contents into the bloodstream.

In charge of the training? Strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde, whose sole credential was a 21-hour strength training course offered by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, which he reportedly attained while at South Florida in 2016. Oderinde received a bachelor’s degree in recreation administration from Western Kentucky and master’s degree in sport management from Kentucky, though neither of those would certify him to be a strength and conditioning coach…

Under NCAA Bylaw 11, strength and conditioning coaches are required only to take a “nationally accredited strength and conditioning certification program,” a broad spectrum that includes Oderinde’s 21-hour course. And there is no language that prevents strength and conditioning coaches from reporting directly to head coaches.

Brian Hainline, chief medical officer of the NCAA’s Sports Science Institute, told Sporting News the NCAA was looking at bolstering accreditation standards for strength and conditioning coaches “in the next year or two,” though no formal measures have yet been introduced or reviewed.

But you, my friend, aren’t the NCAA.

In 2015, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCa) — considered industry leaders in strength and conditioning accreditation — asked the NCAA for “higher professional guidelines” for strength and conditioning coaches to become credentialed, according to CBS. Since then, the NSCA and CSCCa have grown frustrated at the lack of NCAA action, sending a follow-up letter that reiterated their policy recommendations in March 2017.

NSCA board president Dr. Travis Triplett told SN that the politics of the NCAA — namely, how conferences and individual athletic programs oppose what they perceive as meddling — has made progress toward improved certification standards slow. Her view is reminiscent of medical experts’ frustration with the NCAA’s approach to preventing non-traumatic injury and death.

“I don’t know if they received enough pressure to back off and they just feel like they can’t really enforce it, I just don’t really know what their thinking is,” Triplett said. “We feel like … we’ve got that credibility that (the NCAA) should say, ‘Yes, you need one of these two certifications (from either the NSCA or the CSCCa). You can have the other ones as support ones.’”

Whatever could be the problem?  It’s the NCAA, so that means one thing.

… William Brooks — who has litigated issues of sports compliance and NCAA rules infractions for Alabama-based law firm Lightfoot, Franklin & White — believes it’s not yet determined whether the NCAA has a legal duty to protect student-athletes. That said, he believes if the NCAA made rules on issues such as strength and conditioning coach certification, it could essentially give the organization a caretaking role in the eyes of courts.

Brooks said he expects the Oregon case — like similar cases before it — will be settled before trial. Still, he is curious how it will shape a continuously evolving dialogue about the NCAA’s role in protecting its student-athletes.

“If they were to enact specific rules or requirements, those likely would be subject to an attack in a particular case if they weren’t good enough and the NCAA had undertaken a duty of protecting student-athletes,” Brooks said. “It wouldn’t be hard to imagine an instance where some kind of injury occurred and a player were to argue that the NCAA’s rules, if they had enacted some, were insufficient and the NCAA was negligent.”

Gee, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say there’s something that trumps doing it for the kids in the NCAA’s playbook.

By the way, Oderinde is the head strength and conditioning coach at Florida State now.

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Filed under See You In Court, The Body Is A Temple, The NCAA

“Oh yeah, I mean, there’s a chance that it could come from anything.”

Well ain’t this a kick in the pants:

Clemson officials still don’t know or aren’t saying how three football players tested positive for an illegal performance-enhancing drug prior to the Dec. 29 Cotton Bowl. But as the program continues to appeal the suspensions, head coach Dabo Swinney acknowledged it could have come from within — mistakenly.

Swinney told The Post and Courier that the process is out of his hands and that the university’s legal team is still looking into all possibilities, which includes the chance that Clemson gave the players something the athletic department thought was cleared by the NCAA.

Dabo’s not saying that because it’s some random thought that just popped into his head.  He’s clearing the stage for what’s to come.  Hey, Clemson won the national championship, so it’s not like there are going to be repercussions he can’t handle, but if you’re one of the three kids who were banned from playing in the CFP, that’s small comfort.

That being said, if the program were giving players PEDs inadvertantly or not, Dabo’s lucky only three tested positive.

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Filed under Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, The Body Is A Temple, The NCAA

“You don’t feel good.”

Warning signs?

Quantity is another story. In the fall of 2017, University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke Jr received an email from his son’s junior high announcing that there wasn’t enough interest from students at three nearby middle schools to form a single eighth-grade tackle football team.

That got Pielke – who blogs about sports and previously wrote a book on doping –wondering: was America experiencing what he calls “Peak Football”, the moment of maximum participation in the sport? Examining NHFS data, he saw that high school football participation increased every year from 1998 to 2008, peaking at roughly 1.14m players. Since then, however, the number of athletes has dropped every year except 2014.

Comparing those numbers to US Census Bureau population data for 2010 to 2016, Pielke found a similar pattern: the percentage of American boys ages 14-17 playing high school football peaked at 13.2% in 2013 and fell to 12.7% in 2016. Over the last decade, Pielke saw, participation was up in a handful of football hotbeds, including Alabama, Florida and Louisiana. But it had dropped in 40 states, sometimes by surprisingly large margins: 9.5% in California, 11.6% in New Jersey, 21.6% in Michigan, 23% in Ohio and 55% in Vermont.

Since 2014 alone, high school football has lost more than 45,000 participants – roughly 600 teams’ worth of players. “Demographically, it seems pretty convincing that we are in the early part of a process that started a decade ago where football is just not was popular as it used to be among youth,” Pielke said. “Exactly why it is happening is a tricky question.”

That may be so, but a lot of parents seem to be centering on a particular answer these days.

In 2016, a University of Massachusetts survey found that 65% of the public considers sports concussions and head injuries to be a major problem; that 87% believe that CTE is a serious public health issue; and that 48% think the statement that “tackle football is a safe activity for children during high school” is either certainly or probably false.

Pielke said that the two steepest high school football participation drops this decade came in 2012 – when Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau, later diagnosed with CTE, committed suicide – and 2015, when the Will Smith feature film Concussion, detailing the NFL’s alleged denial and dismissal of CTE research, was released in theaters.

“Was that causal?” Pielke said. “I don’t know. That’s a tricky social science question. But the notion that the more people talk about head injury risk in football, the more parents and kids making decisions to play are aware of that risk isn’t outlandish.”

It’s sinking in.  Don’t take my word for that, either.  Here’s somebody with a large social media following expressing concern.

College football, you have a problem.

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Filed under College Football, The Body Is A Temple

Today, in Stacey Osburn has no comment.

Holy mother of crap, this ain’t good.

More than 200 concussion lawsuits are in the process of being filed against the NCAA, a plaintiff’s lawyer told Law360.

Several suits were filed in the Southern District of Indiana — which houses NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis — while more than 200 will eventually be filed, targeting schools up and down the NCAA’s membership, according to plaintiff attorney Jeff Raizner.

The suits will allege that the NCAA and its member schools were aware of the long-term damage concussive and sub-concussive hits native to the game of football would inflict upon players but did not warn players of such dangers.

More than 200.  There aren’t enough targeting penalties in the world to make up for that, I’m afraid.

(As a side thought, I wonder if Georgia will be a targeted school.)

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Filed under See You In Court, The Body Is A Temple, The NCAA

Thursday morning buffet

The chafing dishes are set out and ready to go.

  • Here’s a lawsuit I’ve been waiting to see drop.  Adding the NCAA is a nice touch.
  • The AFCA wants the targeting rules changed to allow for two levels of penalties.  On its face, it sounds sensible, but you can just see that next can of worms waiting to be opened.
  • Malzahn’s “right hand man” jumps off the Gus Bus for… Georgia Tech.
  • Les Miles asks for a change to the recruiting rules after he sees the Kansas roster he inherited.
  • This really seems like the least they could do.
  • And this continues to be the name I hear most frequently as the candidate to be Mel Tucker’s successor, although it has to be said that Kirby seems to be in no hurry on that front.
  • Now they tell us.
  • “If a shoe company wanted to pay one of University of Washington’s running backs $50,000 to appear in a television commercial, House Bill 1084 would permit that.”

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Filed under Academics? Academics., Alabama, Auburn's Cast of Thousands, College Football, Georgia Football, Georgia Tech Football, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery, Recruiting, See You In Court, The Body Is A Temple, The NCAA, Wit And Wisdom From The Hat

“We’re all at the mercy of that process.”

As someone who watched what Kolton Houston went through to regain his NCAA eligibility, I can’t say I have too much sympathy for Dabo Swinney’s mild complaint about the drug testing process.

Swinney discussed the process’ limitations Thursday.

“My big thing I think there should be a common-sense committee, to be honest with you,” he said. “I think a common sense committee would easily look at this situation [differently].

At least in Georgia’s case, the school stepped up, acknowledged the source of the issue and went about making a case for reinstatement that was eventually accepted.  Clemson, in an admittedly short time, has gone with an unusual excuse making route.

“Still looking at all of the different things that we give to our players,” Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said. “Hopefully we’ll come up with an answer here soon.”

Float tanks, Epsom salts, energy drinks and hair products were among guesses players threw out. Some supplement companies include banned substances without proper labeling. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says ostarine has not been approved for human use or consumption in any country.

What I find most intriguing for now is that Clemson has lost one of its best players, a surefire high draft pick in Dexter Lawrence, just a few days before the CFP semi-finals, and has stayed pretty low key about it.  Me, I’d be going nuts over the call in every media outlet I could source, especially if I sincerely felt there was no way my players had knowingly ingested the substance.

Serenity now, I guess.

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Filed under Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, The Body Is A Temple