Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Cutting Back on Contact ; Ivy League's Move Latest in Trend toward Less Tackling in Practice

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Cutting Back on Contact ; Ivy League's Move Latest in Trend toward Less Tackling in Practice

Article excerpt

Ivy League's move latest in trend toward less tackling in practice

Even before Ivy League coaches voted to eliminate full-contact practices from the regular season, teams all across college have been following the NFL's lead by cutting back on the amount and intensity of hitting done while preparing players for game day. "Very, very rarely do we say, Let's go full-speed tackling' once we get into the year, Nebraska coach Mike Riley said Wednesday. "So it wouldn't be a dramatic change for us, nor would it be for the majority of people. I think it would be just a definition of what we already do.

Growing concerns about head injuries and the long-term effects of football's violence on players' health have led to changes in the way the game is coached. Teams and coaches are also motivated by the need to protect their assets, whether that is a professional player making millions or a college athlete on scholarship.

"You got to get your best horses to the starting gate as fresh as possible, Harvard coach Tim Murphy said.

Murphy said the Ivy League's new policy won't affect the way he runs his program.

"It will not eliminate anything because we've been doing this for 15 years, said Murphy, who has guided Harvard to nine Ivy League championships in his 21 seasons as coach. "We've adopted the NFL model.

The league's collective bargaining agreement limits full-contact practices during the season to 14.

Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens took his lead from Rams coach Jeff Fisher and has been even more progressive when it comes to cutting down on contact in practice.

"We never take one of own players to the ground, Teevens said.

Teevens has eliminated all live tackling from practices, including spring and preseason. He said the result has been fewer concussions, fewer soft-tissue injuries and - surprisingly - better tackling. Instead of practicing on each other, Teevens' players practice on pads and dummies, including a robotic tackling dummy.

Since cutting back on tackling in 2010, Dartmouth has not had a losing record and last year Big Green tied Harvard for the Ivy League championship.

Teevens has pushed for others to follow his lead, but putting a league-wide policy in place allows coaches more comfort to try something different. …

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