Football: Ivy League limiting contact in practice. Princeton head coach Bob Surace says “this is the best way to run practice.” Critics will say this is not football.


Above: Former Pasadena Poly standout Blake Edwards, who will play football at Princeton this fall.

While downloading a video interview for the blog I was watching College Football Live on ESPN when the subject of scaling back contact was brought up. The Ivy League will sharply reduce the number of allowable full contact practices teams can hold in an effort to minimize head injuries among its football players.

Princeton head football coach Bob Surace, who is in his second season at the helm, was receptive to the change, in fact he welcomed the concept. Here’s what he had to say when asked what the immediate reaction was to the Ivy League’s decision to limit contact in practice:

“We talked about this as a group of coaches in March at our league meetings, and I’m coming from an NFL environment — last year was my first year here — where I worked eight years under Marvin Lewis, I found in Cincinnati you can run a high tempo, high energy great practice under the structures.”

As for the cricts who say football needs contact and everyday hitting:

“I think we’re not playing touch or flag football, there’s plenty of contact. There was a time in the NFL when they had eight weeks of training camp and three-a-days and things like that. As you progress and as you do things differently player safety is the foremost and most important thing.”

Will the rest of college football catch up to this concept?

“We’ll kind of set the tone and set an example for this. i found this kind of practice tempo to be the best one, and it’s not for everybody. But I am glad the Ivy League opted this. We’re all going to have the same structure because i do think this is the best way to run practice.”

Some have already said that adopting this concept will make players pansys and result in poor tackling, which could lead to injuries.

With two-a-days coming up in the next couple weeks, will high school teams in the area also go that route? Does limiting contact in practice diminish the sport itself and make for poor play? Is football still football with limited contact?

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  • Apache Joe

    Most college and pro teams do “thud” tempo anyways. No side hits are allowed, people break down and tag off at the hip to ensure the same motion of a tackle, just without the inital contact. Any frontal contact is allowed but no player goes to the ground willingly.

    I do not like the idea of High School’s adopting a no-contact practice. I understand a “thud” tempo style of practice because it just limits the number of injuries but to completely take contact out of it? This is football. It is a full-contact sport. The people who play it have to have the courage to do it because their are sacrifices needed to be made. It is a man’s game. It turns boys into men. Take away contact and you lose what makes the game so special.

    Just my opinion.

  • BigCat

    The whirring noise that you hear is Bear Bryant spinning in his grave.

  • Bob Ramsey

    I can remember when limiting water breaks was essential to the game. I played HS ball in the late 70′s when the pros began to allow unlimited water on the practice field. Most HS coaches at the time scoffed at this – saying going without water made you tougher. No, as we know now, it only made you dehydrated.

    The Ivies are merely codifying what most college teams do anyway – they hit on Tuesday & Wednesday, and when they do two a days, they only go full gear on one.

    Football is indeed a full-contact sport, but proper contact is not only a matter of courage, it’s a matter of skill. Another part of the Ivy initiative is to teach better tackling skills, something LA 84 s also working on. Flying around skillfully is what makes you a real football player.

    And skills always degrade with fatigue – players get hurt when they’re tired. Any coach that needs 5-6 hours a day in full pads is a bad coach.

    I had two serious concussions in my playing days, and had my “bell rung” probably six or seven times more. Every time I can’t remember a name or can’t find my keys, a chill goes over my heart.

    I’m glad we’re addressing this issue. It’s not just Bear Bryant in his grave – it’s also the thousands of men who died prematurely and lived diminished lives because we didn’t know then what we know now.

  • New York

    Having the Ivies lead the way is appropriate, given Chris Nowinski’s efforts in educating the nation on concussions.

    Does this development give more credibility to passing league than I have acknowledged in the past? Or, will teams that have more physical practices end up with game time advantages? There must be a reason grounded in equity that lead the entire Ivy league to agree to this.