From the end of spring football to the start of fall camp, there is a dead period — also known as discretionary time — for college football teams. Coaches are only allowed to require eight hours of summer activities from their players each week. Even then, the hours are not full-contact practices.
In order to make up for the time lost not having contact practices from spring to fall, teams have held two practices per day, or “two-a-days,” in fall camp to get up to speed. That is until this season.
On April 14 of this year, the NCAA DI Council voted in favor to make two-a-days illegal for college programs across the country.
As with many things, the decision to ban two-a-day practices can have both pros and cons. Some are in favor of the decision, while others believe it will result in a big challenge for football programs.
What were two-a-days like?
To best understand what exactly the NCAA is taking away, understanding all that went into a practice during two-a-days is important. Just knowing ta there were two full-contact practices is simply not enough to understand what players faced.
With only so many hours in the day, practices had to begin early in the morning. Former Kansas State football player Keithen Valentine said practices began as early as 6 a.m. and the day would not be over until 5 or 6 p.m.
“When I was there, they were putting us in the dorms,” Valentine said. “We would wake up at six or seven, go to the complex, eat breakfast and then go straight to practice.”
The two practices in a two-a-day were different, though.
“Once you start two-a-days, you go in the morning and you go over some plays,” Valentine said. “You do scrimmaging and stuff like that. And then in the second half, you do like more conditioning and a little walk-through.”
Now, all of that must be put into one practice.
Benefits of banning two-a-days
When up for discussion on whether or not to ban two-a-days, the NCAA used the health of student-athletes in its argument.
With over 500 concussions being reported in DI football from 2013-2015, the case for safety is a strong one the Council cited in its statement.
“The Council’s action reinforces our commitment to the health and safety of our student-athletes,” Northwestern athletics director and council chair Jim Phillips said in a statement. “We continue to be guided by the recommendations from medical professionals, coaches and administrators and the strong support for discontinuing two contact practices in the same day.”
Along the lines of looking out for student-athlete health, programs will now not face the challenge of overexposure to the outside elements.
In states like Kansas, where the summer sun becomes tough for many to deal with, players will not have to be outside for two practices in the heat. Instead, they will be outside for only one practice and then head back indoors.
Along with the health factors played into making the decision to ban two-a-days, one benefit is it will now be easier for teams to schedule their one full-contact practice per day.
With student-athletes taking summer classes before the fall semester starts, the challenge of fitting two practices into a 24-hour time slot became a tough task. Now, coaches will only have to slot one practice and can make it work with their players’ class schedules.
“I’m not opposed to it by any stretch of the imagination,” K-State head coach Bill Snyder said at a recent spring press conference when asked for his feelings on the ban. “I mean, it’s fine, we’ll make it work. Everyone can basically be on the same page.”
Teams will now also be able to begin practicing a week earlier because of the ban, according to K-State associate athletic director for communications/sports information director Kenny Lannou.
“The first practice date for football is calculated by using a legislated formula that counts back from the date of the first contest and considers the first day of classes,” Lannou said. “With the new legislation that does not permit two-a-day practices, the NCAA has approved a waiver that would permit institutions to start practice no more than seven days earlier than the first practice date as determined through the calculation. That is supposed to help to make up for the practices that were lost due to not having two-a-days.”
Downside of banning two-a-days
As is usually the case with many things, there are also downsides to implementing this ban on two-a-day practices. One downside is cutting into player’s time off.
Football is a long season. It lasts from August until early December, or even January if a team is fortunate enough to play in a late bowl game. Because of all that is asked of the players during the fall and also spring practices, they are rewarded with discretionary time, when they cannot be required by coaches to partake in football activities. It is almost like a vacation from football.
But with the ban on two-a-days, teams will begin practicing earlier in the fall and cutting into the original discretionary time.
“I would like to have seen them look at some of the other areas,” Snyder said. “There’s this timeframe that goes throughout the course of the year, and you have discretionary weeks and things that just are sensitive to the time element for players. If we were to move our practices back, we cut into discretionary time, which the NCAA requires us to have. So that goes back to the summer time and goes back to the spring time, just backs up forever.”
Another downside to the ban is player health. Although it looks and sounds good to cite player safety as the reason for banning two-a-day practices, there are still some cons when it comes to the ban, and player safety is actually one of the cons as well as a benefit.
As mentioned, practices for fall will begin earlier with this ban. That then brings in the summer heat problems. According to currentresults.com, the average temperature in Kansas City, Missouri, for the month of July is 90 degrees.
With an average of 90 degrees and some days that even eclipse the 100-mark degree, these are not really ideal conditions for practicing football at full-contact.
“Now you’re talking about starting practices in July,” Snyder said. “Last I checked, it was 105 (degrees) in July. I don’t know to what degree that is a safety element for players.”
Working around the ban
Even though coaches are not allowed to have two practices per day, that does not mean there is a rule on what all a coach can do during the practices.
Valentine said while he was playing at K-State and under former coach Ron Prince, the team would practice, lift weights and watch film all in one practice. It may have been one practice all together, but it was the length of more than one.
Valentine said he expects Snyder to be able to find a good strategy to keep production up despite the ban.
“I remember doing that with Prince,” Valentine said. “Coach Snyder always comes up with something, so I think he’ll come up with some kind of system that it will benefit the guys. He’ll figure out a way to get some kind of production throughout the day.”