- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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Some NCAA rules wind through the legislative process for years. This was not one of them.
Just two weeks after revealing the measure was under consideration, the NCAA announced Friday it had finalized a rules proposal that will effectively move the start of fall practice up by two weeks. Traditionally, the first practice of the season has come on October 15, or a corresponding weekend; this would allow teams to begin practicing at the very start of October. After some of the usual legalese, the NCAA even provides some of the rationale for the rules change in the release:
The rule creates a flexible preseason practice schedule that allows practice days and off days instead of the current schedule that leads to practice occurring every possible day. The more flexible approach provides coaches with the ability to determine how to use practice opportunities.
That's an important point: The NCAA moving practice up by two weeks isn't a guarantee -- or even really a license -- for coaches to extend their punishing full preseason practice regimes. Indeed, that's probably counterproductive. It's a long season. Coaches will find the right balance for their teams, and if they don't, they'll suffer fatigue and injuries during the year.
Which is just another reason why I can't really find much to disagree with in this rule change. As we've discussed before, the NCAA has spent the past five or so years telling coaches and programs as loud as it can that the entire season matters. They got rid of the "final 12 games" formality in tournament selection, but that was just a start. In recent seasons, the most predictable thing about the NCAA tournament selection committee is how much it cares about a) nonconference strength of schedule, and b) nonconference record. You don't always have to play well against good teams in November and December, but you do have to play them.
These are the policies of an organization (and a sport, really) desperate to assert its importance outside the March bubble. If you expect your coaches to have their teams ready to go in early November -- and you want the best possible product on the court -- you give them the practice time they need to do so. Fair's fair -- and November gets here faster than you think.