Welcome to May — AKA the start of what is often the peak of college football/basketball offseason blues. The some 70 days left until Big 12 football Media Days still feels like an eternity, let alone the countdown to TCU football’s 2019 opener vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Aug. 31. It’s just part of the annual cycle, and we may as well embrace it.
Thankfully, though, the NCAA has been generous enough to provide a talking point that has more than just a few potential ramifications on the sport we all cherish. That is, of course, the potential for a mandated weekly injury report.
You heard that correctly. Before long, the era of injury secrecy that makes for plenty of speculation on our part week after week may be history. And of course, we’re doing this not for the sake of transparency in and of itself, but to help make your weekend trips to the Caesar’s Palace (insert your favorite casino here) sportsbook that much more enjoyable.
Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports reported Wednesday that the NCAA Gambling Working Group is on the verge of proposing the first-ever standardized national player availability report — something that would mandate teams to list all players as either “available,” “possible,” or “unavailable” on a weekly basis. Teams will not, however, be required to disclose details — such as nature of injuries — when it comes to players who are unavailable. Oh, and yes: it would be mandated as soon as the 2019 season if passed, per the report.
So, obviously there’s a lot to digest regarding this proposal that likely wouldn’t be in the works if it wasn’t for this new age of state-sponsored sports gambling. But the big one, of course, is how the sport — namely head coaches — will react if the mandate is in place by the start of the 2019 season.
Let’s not fool ourselves: With some exceptions, college football coaches don’t exactly welcome injury reports with wide open arms, especially in the days ahead of a pivotal game where a key player might be injured. Let that information out, and the opponent can now change its gameplan entirely — even on short notice — to account for such changes. College football is full of gamesmanship, and any mandated injury report will undoubtedly throw a wrench in any team’s efforts to conceal noteworthy absences.
If you’re skeptical, well, there have been plenty of examples when it comes to schools keeping a firm grasp of privacy regarding injuries. One of the most prominent cases came in 2012, when L.A. Daily News reporter Scott Wolf was temporarily banned from USC football practices after he reported an injury sustained by then Trojans kicker Andre Heidari. At the time, USC media policies prohibited reporters from reporting on injuries.
Might that seem a little unreasonable from the viewpoint of a casual fan? Perhaps, but it really isn’t a surprise when considering the element of mystery that blankets the sport when it comes to what exactly goes down in practice. At TCU, media is only permitted to watch practice on select occasions, with video footage often prohibited after 15 minutes. Anybody who has attended the spring games over the year likely knows first hand too that any form of photography or video is strictly prohibited, hence the lack of a broadcast as some schools have provided.
Other examples of efforts to conceal what goes down in practice? Venture to Tuscaloosa, Ala., where an apartment complex adjacent to Alabama football’s practice fields contains a clause in all leases that tenants are prohibited from sitting on their balconies (if they overlook the fields) during team practices. That’s college football, friends.
So, be prepared. Get ready for some division — including among some Big 12 coaches — if the mandate is passed. Sure, it may only be game-by-game, but that’s enough transparency for the cat to get out of the bag, in the event of some major injury developments or other forms of absence.