Category Archives: The Body Is A Temple

A disturbing trend line

This doesn’t strike me as good news for the sport’s future.

Just days before the Super Bowl, 48 percent of Americans say they’d encourage a child who wanted to play football to play a different sport due to concerns about concussions — up 8 points since the same question was asked four years ago, according to the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

That includes 46 percent of parents with a child in the household (up 9 points since 2014), 53 percent of mothers (up 13 points) and 39 percent of fathers (up 6 points).

If you want a picture painted, here you go.

That’s not a subtle change over a four-year period.  And there really isn’t anything going on in the present to re-direct the direction of that trend.

Schools and the NCAA are currently reacting — if you want to be generous with a description — to litigation threats, but longer term, what happens to the sport if the talent pool begins drying up because more and more parents refuse to let their kids play?  Do you think anyone on the collegiate level has even begun seriously considering the possibility?

Advertisements

42 Comments

Filed under College Football, The Body Is A Temple

Today, in “I think it’s really the right thing for student-athletes.”

The NCAA’s Division I autonomy group finally gets around to mandating medical coverage for student-athletes after they leave school.

Medical coverage and mental health benefits for athletes who suffered injuries or sought help during their college careers was extended for at least two years after they leave campus. The proposal passed by 78-1 with the lone dissenting vote coming from an ACC school. Wake Forest’s representative did not attend because of what was believed to be weather-related travel issues.

Each institution will be able to create its own policies for who qualifies for the new two-year requirement. Many but not all of the 65 Power Five conference members already provide post-career medical coverage, including the Pac-12, which has a four-year mandate.

Yep, there’s a school out there that voted against that proposal, which, as you can see by the Pac-12’s policy, doesn’t really go far enough.

It’s an open question whether the moves by the wealthiest conferences leads to similar changes in other leagues. Schools with less money may find the insurance costs prohibitive unless the NCAA pitches in.

“Maybe that is the discussion or a proposal that comes forward,” Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said.

Gee, that would be nice.  Maybe Mark Emmert can shake some loose change out of the March Madness couch to make up the difference.

8 Comments

Filed under The Body Is A Temple, The NCAA

“That’s up to Lincoln.”

Finally, some Rose Bowl drama.

But that changed here Friday morning when Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield did not attend a previously scheduled media availability for Sooners’ offensive players, an absence attributed to an illness by a school spokesman.

Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner and a player who typically relishes the spotlight, has now missed every public appearance, including an arrival news conference Wednesday at Disneyland. While there’s no reason to suspect that Mayfield’s status for the semifinals is in doubt — he has continued to practice this week and was seen on the field during the team’s media viewing window Thursday — the vague nature of the illness, the fact it has now gone on for three days and the preprogrammed answers about it from Oklahoma coaches and players have left enough of a void to be filled with inference and speculation.

He’s playing.

28 Comments

Filed under Big 12 Football, The Body Is A Temple

Kvelling over Josh Rosen

I think they may have to add another chapter to one of the world’s shortest books, Greatest Jewish Athletes, for the UCLA quarterback who once famously said“In retrospect, being Jewish is a big reason why I should have considered UCLA. Just because of how Jewish Hollywood is, and they really want someone to look up to because they just don’t have professional athletes.”

Bruce Feldman reported the other day that Rosen will sit out the Bruins’ Cactus Bowl game against Kansas State Tuesday under doctor’s orders because of concussion concerns.  You might think Rosen, who can declare early for the NFL draft, where he’s projected to be a top-five pick, would be fine with a decision to skip a meaningless bowl game under a new head coach, but you would be wrong.

He got asked about his status, and gave this answer:

I’m not sure football really knows how to handle a guy who thinks like that.

On the other hand, you can’t blame Rosen for thinking like this:

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen would prefer to play for the Giants over the Browns and would be hesitant to declare for next year’s NFL draft if he knew that Cleveland was going to take him with the No. 1 overall pick, according to league sources familiar with the situation.

That may wind up being the greatest stay in school reason of all time.

Kenahora, Mr. Rosen.

14 Comments

Filed under The Body Is A Temple

At the intersection of Natrez Patrick, the Rose Bowl and Georgia’s revised substance abuse policy

I’ve gotten a few emails in response to my posts on the above subjects and read a bunch of things from others this week about the same.  Georgia, it’s safe to say, finds itself in a unique situation due to some unusual timing, and maybe it’s worth going back to sort a few things out to determine what’s the best way to go forward, particularly in Patrick’s case.

Let’s start with the obvious.  Georgia’s draconian substance abuse policy was created by Michael Adams, who is neither a public safety nor a health expert.  Adams was and is a politician, a politician who in this case wanted to show the world that he was serious about doing something.  My feeling is that enforcing a zero tolerance policy generally does more harm than good and what Adams came up with was no exception to that rule of thumb.  It’s hard to see what he accomplished, other than to put Georgia athletics behind the eight ball compared with its conference peers, something that was acknowledged early on as McGarity tried more than once to lobby SEC schools to bring their own policies in line with Georgia.

From there, it’s worth your taking the time to read this Q&A Ron Courson had with the media yesterday on the subject of the school’s revised policy.  He fielded a lot of good, tough questions, like this opening exchange:

What was the need to revise the substance abuse policy?

Courson: “I think with anything, you want to take a look at any existing policy you have, and things change. One of the biggest things we’re looking, drug rehab and substance abuse issues, you need to look at from a medical standpoint. I think many times in the past it was looked at from a disciplinary standpoint. Substance abuse is a medical problem just like any other medical problem we see. A great example, 15 to 20 years ago, orthopedics looked a protocols. If you had an MCL or an ACL protocol, you followed it. What we found, both didn’t work very well. You tried to use a cookbook approach and you needed to individualize everything. So we tried to craft our substance-abuse policy the same way — is look at it on an individual basis from a problem-solving standpoint. Every case is different. Every student athlete is different. So we’re trying to use that same philosophy and look at it from a problem solving standpoint. That was the main reason in looking at the protocol.”

Why was it in the past that a legal citation counted as a positive test? I assume what your saying, Ron, is why you felt the need to change it, but why was that previous policy in place?

Courson: “We tried to be consistent with university policy as well. Our student-athletes are actually students at the university as well. The university has an existing alcohol and drug policy as well. So we tried to standardize that. That’s where the level one and level two came from. That language actually existed with the university policy.

Read that carefully, and there’s plenty to unpack.  Courson is someone for whom I have a great deal of respect, so when he says it was time to view the policy from a medical standpoint, and not a disciplinary one, I take him at his word.  (I also think that’s the proper approach, for what it’s worth.)  Inherent in that change of philosophy is a rebuke of Adams’ vision, although Courson tries to be careful to avoid a hard distinction with that second answer.

In any event, if the school is to look at Patrick in light of what’s best for him, medically speaking, rather than in terms of pure punishment, the specific question then becomes does it serve that goal best to let him play or not?

Jeff Schultz votes not.

That the nation has become desensitized to all matters involving marijuana use, rightly or wrongly, and that Georgia has a stricter anti-drug policy than most collegiate athletic departments should not be a part of this debate.

There are only two factors that need be considered here when it comes to whether Natrez Patrick plays another football game for Georgia this season:

1. The kid has a problem. Patrick, a junior inside linebacker, has been either arrested, tested positive or been present for six incidents involving marijuana use in less than three years at Georgia. He has done so despite a disciplinary action that included a four-game suspension this season and repeated warnings that persisting in drug use could lead to expulsion. There’s a saying about addicts: Even when they know what will happen when they take that first pill, drink or fix, they still do so. That’s the “insanity” of the illness.

2. If the Bulldogs look the other way and allow him to play in the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma, they effectively will be endorsing and enabling Patrick’s behavior — past, present and moving forward. They will be saying, “This football game is more important than the kid’s well-being.”

Now, before any of you start throwing the click-bait card down, I don’t believe that’s where Schultz is coming from.  He’s written movingly about dealing with a substance abuse problem in his own family.  So what I read here isn’t cynicism.  Quite the opposite; he’s impassioned, even to the point of righteous, albeit misplaced, anger.  (I mean,“But Healan is a defense attorney. He’s not paid to have a conscience or an ounce of moral fiber.”?  Seriously?)

So while I don’t question his sincerity, I do question some of his logical underpinnings.  For one thing, that Georgia has a stricter anti-drug policy than most collegiate athletic departments sure as hell should be a part of this debate.  Not because of competitive disadvantage, but because of the protocol’s structural flaw of which Courson spoke.  Punishing Patrick purely for punishment’s sake isn’t more important than the kid’s well-being, either.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I suspect Schultz is more invested in the second reason — how Georgia and Smart will look if Patrick is allowed to play in the Rose Bowl — than anything else.  What he’s arguing is that even if Courson finds that, purely from a medical standpoint, Patrick’s suspension from the program won’t have any positive impact on his rehabilitation, it doesn’t matter.  In other words, the punishment is the program’s own reward, regardless of the effect on the kid.  I have a hard time swallowing that.

Which brings me back around to where I’m at.  I think it boils down to this:

  1. Natrez Patrick’s use of marijuana has been stupid, selfish and careless.  His suspensions have hurt his teammates and his coaches.
  2. His use of marijuana also violated state law and school policy.  If Smart decides on that basis alone that Patrick shouldn’t be allowed to suit up against Oklahoma, he’ll hear nary a word of disagreement from me.
  3. However, if the real issue now is Patrick’s well-being, then the ultimate arbiter of his fate isn’t me, Kirby Smart or Jeff Schultz.  It’s Ron Courson and Georgia’s medical staff.  Whichever way they decide, as long as it’s through an honest process without any pressure brought to bear by the coaching staff or other non-professionals in Butts-Mehre, I’m totally cool with their call.

I don’t have the first clue whether Natrez Patrick is a consummate dumbass or an addict.  Going back to my college days, I’ve known both types.  I had to help check a college buddy into a facility for substance abuse.  I also had plenty of college friends who used marijuana regularly but still managed to go to class, make good grades, graduate on time and go on to success in the business world and with their families.  Every case, every person, then, is different.  It’s Courson’s job to make an honest determination.  Let him do his job, if that’s how the school’s new substance abuse policy rolls.

I’m tired of empty gestures.  I’m tired of stupid gestures, such as surprise drug testing immediately following spring break.  Or the futile, feel good nonsense of taking pride in having a tougher drug policy than other schools for the mere satisfaction of occupying the moral high ground.  Or Jimmy Williamson taking it on himself to undermine a sensible amnesty policy enacted by the state legislature.

It shouldn’t be about making adults feel holier-than-thou.  It should be about making sure kids get the support they need when they do stupid things, which kind of goes with the territory.  If Patrick crossed a line where that help entails getting him off the field for good, so be it.  Just let that be an informed decision about his specific issues, not how we look at the school in the morning if he plays.

Okay, I’ll climb down off my moral soapbox now.

64 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, The Body Is A Temple

Kirby blinded me with science.

It sounds like Georgia is leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of a national title.  (h/t)

SEC champion and College Football Playoff entrant Georgia has been using MuscleSound for assessments of players’ game readiness this season.

MuscleSound is a Colorado-based company that uses ultrasound imagery to measure glycogen and determine muscle fuel by sending photos to its cloud for computation with its proprietary algorithms. Low readings can be a precursor to soft-tissue injuries. Nutrition and training recommendations can be catered to each athlete.

The ultrasound company is relatively new to college football, having worked with Colorado since last year and starting its collaboration with Georgia this fall.

Data provided by MuscleSound showed a sampling of up to eight Georgia players each week to provide a snapshot of the team’s physical preparedness. The Bulldogs received their highest score prior to its second game of the season, a come-from-behind road victory at Notre Dame that not only showed team stamina but also proved decisive in propelling the school toward its eventual No. 3 national ranking and matchup with Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl.

One of Georgia’s two other highest marks came before its 42-7 thrashing of Florida in the rivalry game formerly dubbed “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” That game was preceded by the Bulldogs’ bye week, likely explaining the energy boost.

Dayum.  I’ll have to take their word on much of that, but I got that the two highest scores came in the face of two of Georgia’s biggest wins this season.  (Although it looks like the Dawgs did just fine as their scores declined during the Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Tennessee trifecta.)

In any event, it’s noteworthy what kind of data this staff is receptive to analyzing.

15 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Science Marches Onward, The Body Is A Temple

Paul Johnson’s convenient memory lapse

Paul Johnson is shocked, shocked that someone would suggest Tech’s blocking style is hazardous to other teams’ health.

“As a conference rule, we have to have four ambulances at our games because we hurt so many people,” Johnson said sarcastically. “Come on. In 10 years, I can’t remember anybody that’s ever gotten hurt out there playing (because of Tech’s offensive style).

“That’s just trying to get the officials to call something that isn’t there.”

DeAngelo Tyson would be happy to refresh your memory, genius.  (Apologies for the picture disappearing into the ether.)

At least Auburn’s never tried to pretend Nick Fairley didn’t exist.

16 Comments

Filed under Georgia Tech Football, It's All Just Made Up And Flagellant, The Body Is A Temple