Copyright 2014 The Columbus Dispatch
All Rights Reserved
The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
Blame it on social media or perhaps the vivid imagination of hard-core fans, but the widespread rumor that Ohio high-school coaches are lobbying for full-fledged spring football has been greatly exaggerated.
The Buckeye State isn't about to join Texas, Florida and more than a dozen other southern states which allow up to 21 days of full-contact team practices each spring.
In meetings with the Ohio High School Athletic Association the past two months, the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association merely has tried to lay the groundwork for loosening restrictions regarding off-season contact with players.
Recently adopted OHSAA rules say that coaches in all sports may offer instruction to no more than four players at a time during the offseason.
"The gist of the discussions center on the coaches wanting to spend more time working with players on individual skill instruction," said OHSAA assistant commissioner Beau Rugg, who serves as a liaison for the coaches. "It does not involve any team play or contact. I'm not sure where talk about that came from. People hear 'spring football' and they jump to conclusions.
"The coaches feel that the four-player limit really handcuffs them as far as getting anything done. There was some discussion about the four-player rule being a launching point, and now the coaches would like to go to the board with a proposal with numbers that everyone can live with."
Olentangy Liberty coach Steve Hale, who this summer will be elevated from vice president to president of the coaches association, said Ohio State coach Urban Meyer addressed the OHSAA in the first meeting. Two years ago, Meyer called for Ohio to adopt spring football, but he has softened that stance.
"Coach Meyer is viewing the situation as a parent because his son will be a freshman next fall," Hale said. "His point is that he'd rather have his son work with his high-school coaches, who are qualified to work with kids, than to go outside and find private sources. He has spoken about how he can go into other places and see kids working on their skills (in the spring), and that those kids might have a leg up on kids from Ohio."
OHSAA commissioner Dan Ross has stated that full-contact spring football will never come to fruition under his watch. His chief concerns are protecting the spring sports, aligning the calendar to keep sports in their natural seasons and keeping in line with the OHSAA's general philosophy that students are better served participating in multiple sports. Those coaching other sports also would expect similar offseason privileges.
Sports medicine studies in regard to concussions and overuse injuries recommend exposing youths to less contact.
Spring football practices -- voluntary or not -- could gut the rosters of other spring sports, many of which already carry low numbers.
"I would hate to see kids put into a position where they felt like they had to make a choice between one sport or the other," said Maurice Douglas, who coaches football and boys track at Independence. "Skill development in the offseason for football is important, but nothing that comprehensive is needed."
Upper Arlington football coach Joel Cutler said that he encourages his players to participate in various sports.
"The skills the kids gain from those sports are extremely valuable in becoming better football players," he said. "I would never want those kids to think they had to drop their spring sports for football workouts.
"In a perfect world, we'd find a common dead period, maybe seven to 10 days between winter and spring sports, or maybe at night after spring sports games and practices are over, when you could get the kids in the gym or out on the field to run some fundamentals. I wouldn't want anything to be mandatory, though. Kids are spread way too thin as it is."