Scott: Less hitting in practices ahead

The most newsworthy part of a "Heath and Well-Being" initiative the Pac-12 announced Monday was the conference's intention to reduce contact in football practices.

From the news release:

Football Contact Reduction: The Pac-12 will codify into a formal policy the existing practices across the Conference as they relate to limiting contact in football practice. The final policy will be released at Pac-12 Football Media Day on July 26. Going forward, the Pac-12 will look at guidelines around contact in practice to ensure that student-athlete well-being is being closely monitored, both in the amount of contact and in providing our student-athletes and coaches with ample opportunity to teach and learn the correct tackling methods during the spring and preseason.

Commissioner Larry Scott joined a teleconference with reporters to discuss this and other issues that had been major topics during a series of summer meetings between coaches, conference officials and conference CEOs.

While Scott admitted, "You're not going to eliminate injuries from athletics," he made it clear the Pac-12 wants to do more to protect football players from head trauma injuries. Scott says the conference will limit full-contact days in practice to "less than what the NCAA permits," while the schools have their own "self-imposed limits."

Also part of the new initiative will be a "Head Trauma Task Force," which "will study head trauma and find ways to limit damage and exposure to student-athletes."

The details will be forthcoming. The only question will be whether or not limiting contact in practice will affect the quality of play. It could conceivably put conference teams at a competitive disadvantage if other conferences don't follow the Pac-12 lead.

When USC was first limited to 75 scholarship because of NCAA sanctions, coach Lane Kiffin significantly reduced the amount of hitting in practice, something he later cited as hurting the performance of his defense.

Other topics Scott discussed:

  • Scott said he was not optimistic about the Pac-12 Network reaching a distribution agreement with DirectTV. Said Scott: "They've said they don't want to do a deal on the same terms that everyone else has. At this point in time, we're as frustrated as our fans are. We hope DirectTV will listen to their customers. Listen to our fans."

  • The Pac-12 Network turned a profit in Year 1. It will increase the number of live events it broadcasts in 2013-14 to 750 from 550 in 2012-13.

  • Scott wouldn't confirm new bowl contracts for 2014, the first year of the new College Football Playoff, but he did strongly intimate that the Alamo Bowl going forward will match the No. 1 non-playoff/non-Rose Bowl Pac-12 team vs. the No. 1 non-playoff/non-Sugar Bowl Big 12 team. That means the quality of the Pac-12 foe will be better. Previously, the No. 1 non-BCS bowl Big 12 team played in the Cotton Bowl.

  • He said he was "not surprised" that it appears the SEC will adopt a nine-game conference schedule in the future. "There is going to be a higher priority on strength of schedule," he said. "That's the strength of your conference schedule, which is affected by the number of conference games you play, as well as the strength of the nonconference schedule. I think it's fair to say every conference has been looking in the mirror and asking how they stack up against that criteria."

  • He was asked if the Pac-12 has addressed recent proposals concerning the major football conferences breaking away and forming their own football division. Scott said, "There was some passing reference to it but we have not spent any time talking about that in any level of detail or how you get there."

  • Scott did strongly reiterate his support for scholarships that cover full cost of attendance, and said that would be a "litmus test" for the NCAA's ability to govern the richer conferences going forward.