The Big 12 has announced the adoption of a conference-wide limit on football in-season live contact opportunities to no more than two times per week, including game-day, per student-athlete. The limit will be in effect beginning with the upcoming 2015 season and will be included in the Big 12 Conference Policy for Concussion Diagnosis and Management.
“The Big 12 Conference continues to take the lead in the area of player safety as the first conference to enact more restrictive contact polices than currently permitted,” commented commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “Our policy is a 33-percent reduction in the number of contact opportunities allowed under NCAA guidelines. Limiting the number of live contact practices and giving medical practitioners unchallengeable authority on return to play decisions unequivocally demonstrates the commitment of our membership to the health and safety of Big 12 student-athletes. I applaud our athletics directors on implementing an industry leading approach.”
Current NCAA Year-Round Football Practice Contact Guidelines allow for two live contact practices a week. The Big 12 policy limits a student-athlete to two contacts per week including competition, or two practices if a student-athlete does not participate in a game that week.
NCAA guidelines define live contact practice as “any practice that involves live tackling to the ground and/or full-speed blocking. Live contact practice may occur in full-pad or half-pad (also known as “shell,” in which the player wears shoulder pads and shorts, with or without thigh pads).” Live contact doesn’t include: (1) “thud” sessions, or (2) drills that involve “wrapping up;” in these scenarios players are not taken to the ground and contact is not aggressive in nature. Live contact practices are to be conducted in a manner consistent with existing rules that prohibit targeting to the head or neck area with the helmet, forearm, elbow, or shoulder, or the initiation of contact with the helmet.” The Big 12 live contact policy applies to in-season practices and includes open dates.
Bowlsby also noted that the Big 12 had previously enacted policy beyond current NCAA Autonomy legislation empowering institutional medical staff with autonomy and the unchallengeable authority to determine management and return to play of any ill/injured student-athlete, and ensure that no coach serve as the primary supervisor for any medical provider, nor have hiring, retention and/or dismissal authority over that provider.