Tuesday, September 18, 2012
A call for injury reporting standards
By Ted Miller
What amuses me about Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is he sees a problem that could be solved or something that could be made better and he always has this nutty reaction.
He thinks: "Hey, why don't we solve that problem or make that thing better?"
That is so weird!
The latest is his idea to standardize injury reporting procedure. This came up because of all the institutional loopiness of late over the release of injury information.
The super-secret coaching style isn't a new thing, but it's now taken over the Pac-12. Closed practices and closed-lip coaches are becoming the standard. Mostly following the lead of Oregon coach Chip Kelly, UCLA, USC, Utah and Washington have adopted new media policies, specifically about disclosing injury information.
It's ostensibly about competitive advantages. Coaches are always looking for every potential angle to gain one. Or prevent one from being given. Even if the paranoia is mostly baseless, as there's zero evidence that open practices provide useful information for opponents. (Don't attribute Kelly's success to closed practices. He had open practices while winning his first two Pac-12 crowns, and his only 2010 defeat came after he closed practices.)
But as college football moves into a playoff age as a revenue-generating juggernaut seemingly unaffected by economic vagaries, Scott is recognizing the need for standards. With so much at stake -- money, in particular -- teams need to play by the same rules. And not just within a conference. Across the entire major college landscape.
Scott previously noted the lack of equity with conferences playing different sorts of schedules -- eight versus nine game; cowardly nonconference scheduling -- and now he's noticing this tempest in a teapot about injuries.
So, he thinks, "Let's do this better."
Ergo: Scott said he'd be willing to look into reporting injuries the way the NFL does it: A weekly list of injured players under classifications such as probable, questionable, doubtful and out.
That's a great idea.
Heck, if I were commissioner of college football, I'd institute three standards.
- NFL-style injury reports released on Monday and Friday. Coaches would not be required to comment on injuries.
- Spring and preseason practices would be open to accredited media. Coaches would have the option to close practices during the season.
- Every conference that wishes to participate in the college football playoff would play a nine-game conference schedule.
Some coaches would resist being required to provide injury reports. Washington State's Mike Leach said Monday that he would "still refuse." And he did what a lot of schools disingenuously do, which is misapply HIPAA and FERPA laws to support their secrecy.
Not as in "That's OK." As in, "You're fined for not following our rules." End of refusal.
This is not just a media versus coach issue. I think every reporter hates the duel over injury information. But there are broader issues over accurate information distribution, namely gambling.
Let's just say if someone really, really wanted to know about the status of Washington State QB Jeff Tuel's knee, he could get it. And, thereby, get an information advantage.
College football has been roiled by massive change over the past two decades, most particularly the past two years. It makes sense to try to make sense of it all and set up national standards. Injuries would be a good place to start, even if point A was only at the conference level.