Big 12's New Contact Rules Won't Have Major Impact

Big 12's New Contact Rules Won't Have Major Impact

Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer

DALLAS -- The Big 12 is looking to be the trailblazer.

No, we're not talking a new round of conference realignment or some forward-thinking slant on holding a conference title game.

The Big 12 wants to set a new standard when it comes to contact rules.

During Day 1 of the conference's media days on Monday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced the conference's plan to limit contact days to two instead of three this fall as the Big 12 becomes the first conference to adopt such a rule.

"We believe it's the right step, and we hope it will become the national rule," Bowlsby said. "Even if it doesn't, we think that that's the right way to conduct our practices. It's another way in which we're a little different, but our ADs have felt strongly about it and our coaches have supported. That's our rule moving forward."

The two contact days include game day, meaning coaches will be faced with having one practice day per week to hold full-contact workouts. The national rule is three. It's a step by the conference to show its concern over the health of its players, particularly with unease surrounding concussions becoming more and more at the forefront in every football discussion.

Bowlsby said talks of implementing the rule began in spring meetings and the conference's athletic directors took it back to their various campuses to discuss it with the coaches before it was eventually approved earlier this summer. He said he hadn't heard any opposition or any backlash from coaches.

In fact, coaches seemed to consider it a minimal change that was unlikely to have a major impact on their weekly game preparation.

"I don't think that that is going to be something that's going to change the way that we do business," Kansas coach David Beaty said.

Said Kansas State coach Bill Snyder: "It will not affect us because the rule defined as it is in place right now -- and we've had discussions of it in our conference meetings -- is identical to what our needs are. So it doesn't alter anything that we have done."

Football remains a physical sport, however, forcing coaches to find the right combination of player safety while still instilling the physical mindset that often decides games.

"You've got to protect the kids as much as you possibly can, but you can't lose sight of the fact that it's a physical game," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "You've got to be able to find that balance. You've got to be able to do as much contact and as much teaching these guys the proper techniques and the proper mentality, which is being tough. If you don't do that, you're not going to win."

Even as the desire to instill a physical toughness within a team burns bright, every coach wants to keep his players at their best possible health for Saturday, when the hitting really matters.

"I don't think any football team goes all the way to the ground during the season, probably wouldn't be smart," Texas Tech center Jared Kastner said. "You do want to go into a game ready and not beat up. Coach [Kliff] Kingsbury does a great job of handling that."

TCU coach Gary Patterson, who prides himself on playing aggressive, physical defense, says his team hasn't used two full-contact practice days per week for years, with Tuesday as a lone full-contact day in Fort Worth, Texas.

"It's easy for us," Patterson said. "That's the only day we're in full pads besides the game. Everybody always looks surprised at me because we're physical. We've been that way really since we've been at TCU.

"I think what you'll find is you'll find that there's a majority of coaches ‑‑ there's a false sense of we just try to bang our kids around, but I think all of us, we like keeping our jobs, and we want to keep our kids healthy."

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