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Why Football Coaches Want Summer Practice

Summer practice is coming. There’s a rich and lively debate to be had about the year-round student-athlete and whether that is a good thing. But the genie is out of the bottle for men’s basketball and women’s basketball (starting this year). It is only a matter of time before it spreads to all sports.

The next most likely place is football, where two groups in the NCAA governance structure are working on summer practice models. The Leadership Council’s football recruiting model subcommittee is including summer activities as part of its review of football recruiting issues (on the request of the AFCA). And the Rules Working Group is exploring how the concept could be applied to all sports.

None of this is noteworthy, and could have been predicted the second men’s basketball broke the seal on summer practice. What is interesting is why football coaches are pushing for it.

Basketball coaches clothed their request for summer practice as a transfer and amateurism issue. More time with athletes in the summer would build stronger bonds that might slow the rate of transfers. And providing athletes with the structure of required conditioning and skill instruction might prevent impermissible trips to work out with trainers financed by agents.

Football coaches are going a different route. Feedback both to the NCAA and through AFCA cite accountability as one of the most popular reasons for wanting summer practice. During the summer, when student-athletes still have academic expectations and the school is still providing a scholarship, coaches are limited in how they can punish an athlete who, for instance, skips class.

Any exercise-based punishment like running stairs, extra wind sprints, etc. would be impermissible. Despite being a disciplinary measure, it would be countable athletically related activity (CARA) according to the NCAA’s definition. And all required athletic activity is prohibited during the summer. Allowing for any CARA during the summer would give coaches that stick to enforce academic standards and class attendance.

It is reasonable to be skeptical of coaches’ stated reasoning for this rule. But given that the rule exists and so far has been a success in men’s basketball, it would seem that coaches no longer need to hide their true intentions. If they want 8 hours per week of conditioning in the summer for 8 weeks (or some other reasonable amount), just asking for it straight up is likely to work.

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