Andy Hodges

Eliminating two-a-days sends old-school coaches spinning

With the NCAA eliminating the old-fashioned two-a-day practices, there will be old-school coaches shaking their heads, but it’s all probably for the best.

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Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler and Darrell Royal are probably shaking their heads today.

They aren’t the only ones.

Any of the old-school coaches are likely in shock over the NCAA’s decision to eliminate two-a-day practices in the preseason.

In a day and age where player safety has become the ultimate goal, it’s another step in that direction.

Now today’s news doesn’t mean they can stay home longer.

From the NCAA’s release:

“Division I football players will no longer have multiple contact practices a day in the preseason.”

There can be a second practice, as long as the players don’t have on helmets or pads and it is separated by three hours from the contact practice.

Oh, and that second, non-contact practice, can not include conditioning drills. No, the coaches can’t just get ’em back out there and run ’em until they drop.

The fact of the matter is, there probably haven’t been many folks doing two-a-day practices for a couple of years now.

Scholarship limitations actually have as much to do with it as anything else.

When the coaches above — and throw Arkansas’ Frank Broyles in there, too — were in their heyday, they would have 200 players the first day of practice.

One of the results of those grueling multiple practices every day was to run off the ones who weren’t winners in the minds of many of those coaches.

That philosophy changed over the years, due to changes in society to some extent, but more importantly, to changes in the NCAA’s rules. They can’t start the workouts with 200 players anymore.

It’s leveled the playing field, to a certain extent.

While this is certainly a benefit for immediate safety, though, there is some concern about the longterm affect. When Jimmy Johnson was coaching in Dallas, his multiple practices daily were for conditioning as much as anything.

He gave a lot of credit to those July practices for his team’s ability to have a seemingly endless energy (and their legs) throughout the long NFL season.

As the college seasons continue to lengthen, it remains to be seen what affect the reduced practice time in August will have on a team in November.

Well, at least, you think it will be August. It may back all the way up into July. A couple of months ago, the NCAA allowed schools to back up the start of practices by a week, which will have them starting in late July now. They can have 29 practices before the start of the season.

The old-school coaches probably would like that.

But there won’t be any more of the lengthy practice sessions with players falling out all over the place.

Under today’s climate, those great coaches would have adapted, but there wouldn’t be any more stories like the famous one from former Alabama great John Hannah about Bryant:

“One year we have three or four guys taken to the hospital one day from heat stroke. Coach Bryant didn’t flinch. The next day before we started practice, he said:

‘Men, you learned a valuable lesson yesterday. The human body is an amazing machine. You’ll push it, push it and push it, but you won’t die.

‘The human body will pass out before you die.'”

Nope, there won’t be any more stories like that.

Which is probably for the best.

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