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Opinion: NCAA Should Enact Injury Reports

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USA TODAY

 

Football coaches constitute the only subset of the population that describes injuries geographically — as in, a player with an ACL tear is "out with a knee," or worse yet, "has a knee." Well, don't we all?

When pressed for details, the same group will provide an injury prognosis in the terms of minutes and hours, as if recoveries can be measured with an egg timer. If you are not in uniform for many major programs — whether it's with a head cold, an ankle sprain or an amputation — you're labeled "day-to-day." Yeah, but aren't we all?

By and large, this is a secretive, closemouthed group of individuals who want nothing more than to say little and share even less.

So you should expect some backlash among coaching circles when it comes to the proposal suggested last month by the Big Ten, which has asked the NCAA to look into creating a national system for reporting injuries across the Football Bowl Subdivision, per CBSSports.com. Mandating weekly reports would run contrary to coaching logic, which goes something like this: What's mine isn't just mine — it's proprietary.

"Whatever weaknesses or vulnerabilities that we have as a team, I can't possibly fathom why I would have any interest in revealing that to my opponent," Washington State coach Mike Leach said this winter to USA TODAY. That mind-set pervades the profession.

But coaches need to get on board with the idea of weekly injury reports, which would be a positive in the generic sense and a nearly mandatory addition as national gambling laws begin to wield their impact on the sport.

For starters, an NCAA-issued edict demanding weekly reports in the vein of the NFL, which hands out three lists each week ending with a final tally on Fridays, would remove the inane and mind-numbing gamesmanship seen at Michigan and elsewhere.

Contrary to public perception, Nick Saban openly discusses injuries, if grumpily. Michigan, for example, has gained nothing from playing things close to the vest; if anything, doing so has made Michigan's Jim Harbaugh look foolish — as if opponents need a depth chart to know the Wolverines are going to run on first down, run on second and throw on third.

Likely the most impactful on-field benefit to stem from injury reports is the uniformity it would bring across programs and conferences. Getting each Power Five conference to adopt a similar nine-game league schedule is more and more an impossibility, to name one contentious topic. On this the Power Five should agree: There is nothing to lose — no inherent advantage or disadvantage for any one program — in providing a weekly report listing which players will not play on a given Saturday.

On an individual level, it's one fewer thing for coaches to worry about. Coaches treat football, a game, like it's high-level mathematics. It's not physics; it's football. Take the topic out of the hands of coaches and athletics departments because both groups have shown themselves unable to shake the idea that the information is copyrighted.

Besides, injuries shouldn't be treated like the recipe for Coke. The entire sphere of college football, from coaches through the media, need to toss aside the tired and frankly embarrassing notion that football is a sport of gladiators, that injuries are a symbol of weakness. It's idiotic, for one, and totally unsuitable to the era. We need to talk about injuries because the most important topic facing this sport isn't the amateur model but player safety. There are few better ways to discuss injuries than to make them an open topic every week within each program in the FBS.

Then there's gambling. In May the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law banning state-authorized sports gambling, with Nevada the exception. Seven states have since followed Nevada's lead: Delaware, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. More will follow. More gambling is coming to college football, and the NCAA needs to get on board.

The NCAA could buck at the idea of even tacitly endorsing gambling; this is, after all, an outfit that steadfastly clings to an athletic model decades removed from relevancy. Foresight and the NCAA are two words rarely used in the same sentence. Yet here's why the NCAA should and will get on board: Gambling is going to be a money maker.

The positives far outweigh the negatives, because there are no negatives to nationally standardized injury reports. Coaches would have to unlearn old habits. The NCAA would have to acknowledge the inevitable impact gambling will have on its model. But both sides need to catch up with the times.

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July 5, 2018
 
 
 

 

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