March 1, 2008

Spring practice length a point of contention

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for their opinion about a specific topic from the past week in college football.

TODAY'S QUESTION: With spring practice getting in swing around the country, is the allotted 15 days too many, not enough or just right?
Olin Buchanan
Maybe some coaches would disagree maybe a lot would but 15 days of practice in the spring would seem sufficient to me. Hey, college presidents claim they can't hold a national football playoff because of time demands on student athletes, so wouldn't more spring practice have the same affect?

Besides, an extended spring schedule also would increase the chances of injury while reducing the time for recovery and rehabilitation to get ready for the next season.

I love college football, but it doesn't need to be a year-around sport, and an extended spring period would almost make it that. Less than two months after the season ended Jan. 8, we're already into spring football. Most programs don't end spring drills until April 19. That's just 3 1\2 months before practices open in August.

As it is, players always are in the weight room preparing for next season, so why heap more on them? Give them a chance to be regular students, have a spring break and go home and visit their families. The coaches need it, too. At some point, they need a vacation.

But I do know a coach who suggested that teams that did not play in a bowl game the previous season should be allowed an extra week of practice to counter the additional weeks of practice that bowl-bound teams received. I'm not sure if I totally agree with that point, but I do think it is an interesting argument
David Fox
Coaches almost always will say 15 practices isn't enough. Take a team such as Auburn: The Tigers have two new coordinators and a new quarterback in 2008. Tommy Tuberville might plead for an extra week, at least. So would Rich Rodriguez, who brings a new coaching staff and a new scheme at Michigan.

Much to the chagrin of Tuberville and Rodriguez, though, 15 is all they can have. Fifteen is a nice, round and arbitrary limit on spring practice just enough to install a new offense or defense and for young players to make an impression, but not too much to be considered grueling.

The only thing the NCAA does by limiting spring drills to 15 practices is to curb the amount of time coaches have direct control over their players.

The limit has nothing to do with preventing injuries since coaches often sit hurt players who would otherwise participate during the fall. In practice, the limit doesn't focus on academics.

Three hours of spring practice takes away from academics the same way three hours of "voluntary" workouts or seven-on-sevens does. College football requires a year-round commitment. Responsible players will work all year, whether there's a 15-practice limit or coach's supervision.
Mike Huguenin
Fifteen is a fine number.

People talk all the time about how pro football basically has become a year-round sport. Well, let's get serious: It's the same with college football. College coaches will tell you they don't have enough time with their players, but I'd bet if you ask the players, they'd say the time they spend with their coaches is more than enough. Between the time spent in the weight room, film room and on the practice field, players are immersed in football year-round.

Adding more spring-practice days shouldn't be an option.

Besides, coaches who know what they're doing can do what needs to be done in those 15 days.
Steve Megargee
As it's presently constituted, spring practice doesn't last long enough to solve much of anything. How many legitimate position battles actually get settled before summer preseason workouts? If a competition is truly decided at the end of 15 days of spring practice, it probably wasn't much of a battle in the first place.

That might seem like a logical argument for why schools need more days of spring practice, but I actually think the current length is just about right.

While academics often is used as nothing more than a convenient excuse to argue against things in college football (e.g. not holding a playoff because lengthening the season is bad for students while simultaneously approving a 12th regular-season game and conference championships), that reasoning actually carries some weight in this instance. Between the rigors of the season and all the weight training and informal workouts they have in the offseason, football players already don't have enough time in their schedule for actual schoolwork.

Having more days of spring practice probably won't solve most position battles any earlier because coaches still likely will wait as long as possible to make those decisions in most cases. Lengthening the spring calendar will only increase the amount of preseason injuries while reducing the amount of time players have to get much accomplished in the classroom.

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