In a move that would have raised the ire of high school gridiron coaches a decade or so ago, the University Interscholastic League’s legislative council voted Tuesday to limit full-contact football practice to 90 minutes per week.
Rather than cause an uproar, the ruling was lauded by area coaches, who say they’ve been limiting full-contact drills for years.
Gatesville head coach Kyle Cooper wanted to see all the specifics of the rule before commenting on its merit, he strongly believes coaches will comply with any rule regarding player safety.
“There is a astigmatism that goes with Texas high school football coaches that we are a win-at-all-costs group of individuals,” Cooper said, “and that is just not the way I see it. ... I think as a whole, we are a group that cares about kids and are in it for the right reasons.
“Nobody wants to see a kid hurt. We all want to make boys into men, and obviously you’ve got to have some contact to do what we do, but I don’t think as a rule there will be any major issues.”
The UIL is the governing body for public high school sports in Texas, and Tuesday’s ruling must be approved by the state’s commissioner of education before it can take effect on Aug. 1, 2013.
“We’re already very much in compliance with that rule and have been for years,” Temple coach Mike Spradlin said. “There won’t be any ramifications on our business, and I don’t know anybody who will have a problem with it.”
The new guideline would not limit full contact during spring drills or two-a-days and would kick in the week of a team’s first game, limiting “contact at game speed where players execute full tackles at a competitive pace, taking players to the ground.”
Like Spradlin, Shoemaker head coach Channon Hall does not believe the rule will greatly impact the way his practices are run.
“We’ll just have to monitor what we’re doing and make sure we are in compliance,” Hall said. “I haven’t really broke down (the amount of time we participate in full-contact during practice), but I will. (The new rule) is basically the norm of what we do now. We might lose 10, 15 or 20 minutes a day, but we can live with that.”
It wasn’t that long ago the prevailing thought among some coaches was that more contact during the week made for better players on the weekend. The game has changed, though.
“It’s the nature of the game. The games are more violent,” Spradlin said. “If your intentions are to play a 16-game schedule, with scrimmages and two-a-days, the body can’t handle that grind with full contact all the time.”
Copperas Cove head coach Jack Welch agreed.
“Any time the UIL puts in a rule, I think they are trying to make the game better for the kids,” he said. “I think this is another step toward the prevention of injuries. I think only time will tell if it serves its purpose. (But) this is another reason the UIL is ahead of other states.”
The sentiment among coaches is that the UIL’s ruling is a proactive move — which they favor — to possibly prevent intrusion by the state Legislature.
“I would prefer we govern our own sport, rather than have the Legislature act on it,” Spradlin said. “I don’t trust the government to try to rule on athletics.”