Big Ten coaches have mixed opinions on early start date


CHICAGO – When the NCAA announced they were getting rid of two-a-day practices in 2017, the rule change was met with mixed reviews.

The intent of the rule change was player safety, but what it did was actually extend the overall length of Fall Camp from 4 weeks to now 5 weeks. Teams can open up Fall Camp as early as Thursday. Nebraska will open camp on Sunday. Ohio State will have a practice Thursday, but won’t treat it like training camp. The Buckeyes take their team to different practices fields on campus and house them in a dorm building over the course of their camp in August – more of an NFL style.

Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald will keep things more like last year, as his team won’t begin practice until Saturday Aug. 5 – nearly a week later than every other Big Ten school.

Each team is allowed 29 practices from July 27 to the opener. It’s clear every coach has different philosophies on how they plan to attack this big rule change.

“One of the concerns I know I share and a lot of my colleagues, that without two-a-days you’ve extended the season it could be potentially close to five weeks of training camp, which is way too much,” Ohio State’s Urban Meyer said.

“So we’re very leery about starting — we’re not officially starting camp this Thursday, it’s just a practice. I don’t want the players to feel like it’s a camp yet. So we won’t do that until the following Wednesday.”

Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz was another coach that has been vocally against the new rule. Ferentz said he just doesn’t see the benefit of adding another week to the practice schedule.

“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I’m sure I’ll continue to spend a lot of time thinking about it,” Ferentz said. “I’m only smiling right now because I’m not a fan of (the early start date). I think all of us are for player safety and player welfare.

“Two things I’m concerned about is we are starting on a Sunday and last year we started on a Thursday (a week later), and we could’ve started (this year) I think on Friday. You already extended camp that way for the guys.”

Ferentz added he feels the NCAA is modeling more of an NFL format for training camp, the only problem is college teams don’t get the luxury of playing exhibition games to break up the day-to-day monotony of camp.

“The other thing is we are copycatting the NFL, but we forgot one thing. The NFL plays four preseason games,” Ferentz said. “They go to camp for two weeks and then they start playing their preseason games and then they spill into a schedule. So now you are talking about one-a-days, meetings and walk-thru’s – you can only expect so much from the guys over a course of a week, then over the course of 5 weeks.

“I’m worried about some good stories to tell them by about Week 3, just so we aren’t a bunch of zombies. I think we all wanted to get to a point where there is less contact and legislate that, but there are probably other ways we could’ve done that without infringing on the players schedules.”

Meanwhile Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst had a much different stance on the new practice rules.

Instead of complaining about the changes, Chryst said there’s really only one thing you can do.

“I think the best thing to do is once they give you the legislation you embrace it and you figure out a way to make it good for your team, and that’s what we’ve done,” Chryst said. “Do we know? No. We haven’t gone through it with this much time before a game. You just have to come up with a good plan and be able to adjust if you need to.”

Nebraska will open practice July 30, with off days on Aug. 4, Aug. 6, Aug. 13, Aug. 20 and Aug. 27.

NU will hold their practices over the first three weeks from 9:30 to 11:30 am Monday through Friday, while their Saturday practices will take place from 11 am to 1 pm. They will only practice on one Sunday in August.

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