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The WIAA and Wisconsin Football Coaches Association are closing in on enacting a plan that would limit player-on-player contact during practice, and the rules could be in place in time for the start of the upcoming season.
Leadership from those groups and the WIAA sports medical advisory committee have come up with a proposal that will be discussed at the Board of Control meeting Thursday in Stevens Point. The Board can either put the measure in place for the 2014 season or send it through the formal committee process next winter, which would mean it could take effect no sooner than 2015.
The proposal comes at a time when there is raised awareness about the dangers of head injuries and questions about the safety of the sport in general. It would provide guidelines for an issue that to this point has been decided on a coach-by-coach basis.
"I think it's really good," WFCA executive director Dan Brunner said of the plan. "I think it's going to get us ahead of the curve here before things get mandated at the national level."
Earlier this month Brunner, Lancaster coach John Hoch and Madison Edgewood coach Al Minnaert met with three members of ther medical advisory committee as well as WIAA executive director Dave Anderson and deputy director Wade Labecki, who are both former football coaches.
Here is the plan they came up with:
Week 1 of practice: Only Drill/Contact is allowed and it is unlimited.
Week 2: Drill/Contact is unlimited. Competition/Full Contact is limited to 75 minutes per week (excluding a scrimmage).
Week 3 and beyond: Drill/Contact is unlimited. Competition/Full Contact is limited to 60 minutes per week (excluding games).
The plan defines five types of contact.
Three activities are suitable for Drill/Contact, which is unlimited:
Air is defined as drills run unopposed without bags or opposition.
Bags is considered activity "against a bag, shield or pad to allow for a soft-contact surface, with or without the resistance of a teammate or coach standing behind the bag".
Wrap is considered drills run at full speed until contact, which is above the waist with players remaining on their feet.
These activities are considered Competition/Full Contact, which are limited in the plan:
Thud. This is the same as a wrap, but the tempo is competitive with no pre- determined winner and the players are not tackled to the ground.
Live competition or full contact. These are drills or game situations that occur at game speed when full tackles are made at a competitive pace and players are taken to the ground.
Labecki, via email, said the plan would be the strongest in the country if passed. The proposal comes at a time when other states are beginning to enact rules on football contact.
"It was felt that we should be proactive for this fall," Labecki said in the email.
This latest proposal would work in conjunction with the acclimatization rules, which were passed in January.
The acclimatization rules make the first day of full pads/contact the seventh day of the season rather than the fourth day as in previous years. Once the regular season starts, teams are allowed 2½ hours to practice per day with a recovery period.
Acclimatization classifies preseason practices as either long or short.
Short practices would last a maximum of three hours plus a 30-minute recovery period that would have to occur in a "cool environment" no later than two hours into the practice.
Long practices would follow the "short practice model" for the first three-hour period. After that players would be required to have a three-hour break to recover and then teams could practice an additional 90 minutes, but the only equipment allowed would be helmets and mouth guard.
Long practices cannot be held on consecutive days and the first long practice must be held the day after a short practice.