The SEC is exploring whether Alabama will be able to continue using Apple watches to monitor its football players' physical activities during the league-mandated shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, sources told ESPN on Friday.
During a conference call with reporters Thursday, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said his program had provided Apple watches to players, and that new strength and conditioning coaches David Ballou and Matt Rhea were "very instrumental in setting up this whole program of what we're doing with the players in terms of the Apple watches for their workouts and apps on their phones for weight-training programs."
Earlier this week, the NCAA released a Division I COVID-19 Question and Answer Guide, which included directives covering what schools could do to distribute voluntary workouts to student-athletes. The guidelines specified that coaches and other staff members "may not supervise or conduct such workouts" and that players "may not report voluntary athletically related activities to institutional coaches or staff members."
An Alabama spokesman told ESPN on Friday that only director of sports medicine Jeff Allen is viewing information collected by the players' Apple watches, including sleeping patterns, heart rates during workouts and other health-related data.
Matt Self, Alabama's senior associate athletics director for compliance, said in a statement: "The SEC is aware that Alabama provided Apple Watches to some of our student-athletes. We are in constant communication with the SEC discussing the appropriate manner in which to utilize these and any other resources to provide for the health and well-being of our student-athletes during this crisis."
Some other FBS coaches weren't sure that the NCAA's mandates for strength and conditioning during the shutdown permitted the Crimson Tide to utilize Apple watches.
During a conference call with reporters Friday, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he didn't believe monitoring devices like Apple watches was permitted.
"I don't know, maybe [Alabama] got a different interpretation or something," Swinney said. "There are a lot of different interpretations out there right now."
Earlier this week, Texas coach Tom Herman also expressed frustration about the uncertainty surrounding what programs can send their players. The Big 12 told its schools that it could only send items like nutritional supplements and light training devices to players, while teams from other leagues are sending boxed meals to players who were on university meal plans.
"The one thing that has me and other coaches in the Big 12 a little upset and a little confused is the ability to send your players workout equipment and tracking devices," Herman said. "They've really restricted that moving forward, but yet other conferences have had two weeks of shipping this stuff out to their players. Are they going to make those players send it back? We've got to figure out how to level the playing field as far as that's concerned."