WIAA places limits on contact in football practices

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John Barry
Friday, June 27, 2014

STEVENS POINT--Leave the pads off.

That's the message the WIAA is sending to high school football coaches statewide.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Control advisory committee approved Thursday a football player-on-player contact policy that begins with the upcoming 2014 season.

The Board also approved coaches advisory committee recommendations for winter sports starting with the 2014-15 season.

The player-on-player contact policy recommendation was supported by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association, the Sports Medical Advisory Committee and the Executive Staff. It limits player-to-player contact that simulates live game action in practices. Player-on-player contact drills are divided into five categories, and limitations are placed on the competition/full contact designations.

For the first week of practice, no full contact is permitted. In the second week of practice, full contact is limited to 75 minutes per week, excluding a scrimmage; and for the third week and beyond, 60 minutes of full contact is permitted per week, excluding games.

Janesville Craig head football coach and Ben McCormick doesn't think the ruling will have much of an impact, if any, on the majority of programs around the state.

“I think most coaches already recognize the benefits of reducing the amount of contact during the week,” said McCormick, who is also Craig's athletic director. “We don't come close to 60 minutes of contact once the season starts. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays during game week, we might run five or six full-contact plays that take up maybe seven or eight minutes.

“Our contact philosophy has always been to hit high and hard during practice, but without bringing anyone to the ground. We do whatever we can to keep kids from getting dinged up.”

Once the policy takes effect, the WIAA has to find a way to enforce it. There are currently 428 schools in the state with football programs. And what will the punishment be if a school is caught breaking the revised contact policy?

“That's a good question,” McCormick said of how to enforce the rules. “I'm pretty sure the WIAA isn't going to ask us to log hours, because that would be pretty time consuming.

“I understand the reason for making these rules. But I really believe most schools are already doing what's best for their program and the safety of their student/athletes.”

Six of the recommendations made in basketball received Board approval. A six-quarter waiver will be provided to programs that have 12 or fewer players across two levels beginning in 2014-15. Also passed were provisions to increase the number of games for freshman-only teams from 20 to 22, and to allow head coaches of programs in grades 9-12 to use the coaching box. The Board also supported the recommendation to allow any school 80 miles or more from its seed meeting site to use electronic means to participate in the meeting.

Beginning with the 2015 tournaments, Division 5 teams will now have the same provision as Division 4 in dealing with conflicts that arise when a school's girls team is scheduled to play a sectional semifinal on Thursday evening, the same night as the school's boys team is scheduled to play in a state semifinal game.  In these instances, the girls sectional semifinal will be moved to Wednesday evening. In addition, a 3-point field goal shooting competition, scheduled for the Saturday prior to the boys and girls state tournament finals in 2015, received the go-ahead from the Board.

Of the number of coaches recommendations presented in wrestling, three were passed into regulations. Assistant referees will be used for the state semifinals and finals of the state team and individual tournaments beginning in 2015, and the third- and fifth-place matches will run concurrently by weight class and division in the state individual tournament.

Other Board action in wrestling retains the 3 p.m. start time for the finals session of the state team tournament implemented last March to accommodate the Big Ten Wrestling Championships schedule.

The Board approved the use of video replay to review and verify questionable goals and to correct the game time at the state boys and girls hockey tournaments beginning in 2015. In addition, the starting times for the Thursday and Friday sessions of the state tournament will return to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. beginning next season.

The first of two Sportsmanship Committee proposals to receive Board approval requires host schools to report incidents of rushing the court or field during the regular season and the Tournament Series to the WIAA office. The second adds another option to the sportsmanship public address announcement required before all Tournament Series contests.

The WIAA oversees interscholastic athletic programs for 505 senior high schools and 62 junior high/middle level schools in its membership. It sponsors 24 championship tournament series.

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