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WVU Coach Neal Brown Not Worried About Potential Preseason Practice Changes

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April 24, 2021; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown watches West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Sam Brown (17) make a catch prior to the Spring Game at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen

In attempting to curb concussion and head-related injuries among college athletes, the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee has requested that the Division I Council enact a few preseason practice changes.

According to an NCAA release, the recommended changes include:

  • Prohibiting drills that create unneeded contact, particularly straight-line contact that is not common to the game.
  • Reducing the maximum number of contact practices from 21 to 18, requiring at least seven helmet-only days (with optional spider pads) and restricting full-pads day to nine.
  • Increasing the acclimatization period from five to seven days.
  • Additional limits on full-contact practices, including no more than two consecutive full-contact practices, a total of no more than 75 minutes of full contact within any practice session and no more than two scrimmages in the preseason.

Additionally, the committee would recommend creating an educational platform to teach coaches and on-campus staffers the new requirements and reasons for implementing the new procedures. Utah athletics director Mark Harlan spearheaded the committee — which contained members from the Football Oversight Committee, Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports and the American Football Coaches Association.

Following the annual Gold-Blue Spring Game last month, West Virginia football coach Neal Brown said he does not feel that his team will be affected by the potential changes too much.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be that much different than what most programs are already doing,” Brown said. “And what I mean by that is, I don’t know a single college football program — you had 25 football practices, you could go full pads in 21 of them if you wanted — I don’t know anybody that was doing that.”

A newly elected Board of Trustee in the American Football Coaches Association, Brown has worked closely with other NCAA Division I football coaches over the past couple of months. His sense, he said, is that the new rules would not change a whole lot that Division I teams are already doing.

The biggest potential change Brown foresaw came in the form of reducing the number of fully-padded practices to nine.

“The helmet practices, as a coach, are more concerning to me than shells or full pads because when you’re practicing, you’ve got these big athletes that are strong and they’re fast, and on the rare occasion that someones on the ground, you have nothing to protect yourself,” Brown said.

However, Brown said that he was pleased with the oversight committee’s decision to allow spider pads during practices still.

“So, what I was really pleased about is the oversight committee, they’re going to allow you in those helmet practices to wear what’s called spider pads. Which is really just a foam that you wear which is real light, but it covers up your shoulders, so if you’re doing a 1-on-1 rep or a 7-on-7 rep, and someone’s on the ground, at least they’ll have these little spider pads that will protect that shoulder joint where you won’t have a shoulder injury.”

While Brown feels that the current proposal wouldn’t impact WVU too much, the subcommittee will continue to study new research — especially after the 2021 fall season — to consider new changes for the regular season, spring season and out of season periods. The Division I Council will consider the current preseason proposal at the May 19 meeting.

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