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Wednesday, October 3, 2012
ACC model for sharing injury updates works- mostly

Associated Press

The Atlantic Coast Conference is setting the standard this season when it comes to sharing player injury information.

Still, some say the conference guideline would work even better if all ACC coaches participated fully in the process that they themselves developed.

Two days before conference games, ACC schools are obligated to release lists of their injured players.

Of the six power conferences, only the ACC has a league-wide guideline this year for reporting injuries. But there are concerns about how it works, mainly that nothing can be done if a coach chooses not to comply.

"Coaches sandbag," Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. "There ain't no wondering. That's just part of being a coach."

And North Carolina coach Larry Fedora compares discussing injured players to giving the opponent a peek at his playbook.

But ACC Associate Commissioner for Football Operations Michael Kelly believes the process works, and most coaches agree. He says the coaches have enough respect for each other to follow those guidelines.

"Ultimately, if it's found not useful or if they're not being used the way the coaches feel is good for them, then we likely would adjust it or change it," Kelly said. "But I think it's really been out of the respect they have for each other and the respect they have in terms of how they share the information with the media is why they elect to renew it each year. It's something we'll keep talking about."

The league classifies its injury guidelines as a "framework" for exchanging information -- not a policy subject to enforcement, Kelly said.

"If you put something as a full-blown policy, then you might have people change their mind in time, and it becomes a bigger issue to change," Kelly said. "So we just made it more of an operating procedure from year to year."

Knowing who is and isn't healthy enough to play is valuable information for just about everyone with an interest in a game, from opposing coaches drawing up game plans to gamblers looking for an edge.

But what primarily led the ACC in 2008 to adopt its plan were coaches who grew weary of answering the same type of questions every week, Kelly said.

"I get tired of being asked about injuries, so for me it's easier just to put it out there the way we do," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said.

Now when those questions come, they can simply steer everyone to the injury report. It is submitted by the school's medical staff to the sports information department, which then sends it to media members and the conference office.

Injury reporting has led to some conflicts across the country this year -- especially in the Pac-12, where Commissioner Larry Scott has entertained the possibility of his league moving toward a standard report like the ACC's. Southern California coach Lane Kiffin ended a press conference after less than 30 seconds when someone asked about an injured player.

In the ACC, it seems no two coaches treat injury questions the same way.

The only time Fedora discusses injuries is to say he doesn't talk about them. His philosophy took shape when he was Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator. He didn't like facing injury questions then and vowed not to answer them when he became a head coach.

"Why give something to the opponent when you're not getting anything out of it?" Fedora said. "I know it's information that people want to know. But for us, there's no benefit in it. ... I definitely know it's a benefit for the opposing team. It's no more than I would tell you what the first play of the game is going to be or when we're going to call a trick play or when we're going to fake a punt. ... Why would I give any of those things out?"

At N.C. State, Tom O'Brien usually deflects questions with a gentle reminder of the report's release date.

"I don't mind doing anything as long as everybody's on the same page," O'Brien added.

And if other teams aren't being forthcoming?

"Then why should I?" he countered.

Wake Forest's Jim Grobe is more open, in part because his is one of the few programs that opens practice to reporters and fans.

"Seemingly, there's an NFL trickle-down trying to keep it a big secret right up to kickoff, that kind of thing," Grobe said. "There seems to be a lot of secrecy at the professional level, and that's filtered down to some of our guys. I really don't know why."

Of course, a player's status can change during the time between the report's release and kickoff.

North Carolina star running back Gio Bernard, who injured his knee in the opener, did not appear on the report for the second game at Wake Forest yet wound up sitting out.

And Miami coach Al Golden said that, in retrospect, he should have listed punter Dalton Botts as probable for last week's game against N.C. State instead of leaving him off the report entirely.

Despite Morris' assertion that coach's "sandbag" when it comes to injuries, most say they trust their counterparts.

"I would doubt that any of the coaches in the ACC is trying to skirt that, because, truthfully, by Thursday it doesn't matter a whole lot," Johnson said. "Your stuff is in. You do what you do and you're getting ready for schemes anyway. ... You're not going to totally change your game plan."

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AP Sports Writers Aaron Beard in Chapel Hill and Raleigh, N.C.; Pete Iacobelli in Clemson, S.C.; Tim Reynolds in Coral Gables, Fla.; Charles Odum in Atlanta; Hank Kurz Jr. in Blacksburg, Va.; David Ginsburg in College Park, Md.; and Associated Press Writer Brent Kallestad in Tallahassee, Fla., contributed to this report.