IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz jokes that he might spend some time this summer organizing a few activities for his team during fall camp.
Maybe a tug of war. Perhaps a good old-fashioned pie fight.
Preparing for his 23rd season as Iowa’s football coach, Ferentz said the Hawkeyes could have some time on their hands if the NCAA follows through with a proposed rule change that would reduce the number of padded practices from 21 to eight during preseason camp.
The NCAA’s Football Oversight Committee will take proposals including that reduction to the NCAA Division I Council on May 19. If approved, that change could be implemented when fall camp begins in August.
At the core of the issue is injuries, specifically concussions, after a five-year study released earlier this year found that half of the concussions suffered by football players in the Football Bowl Subdivision took place during preseason camps and nearly 75% occurred outside of games.
Ferentz said those numbers didn’t seem right based on experiences within his own program.
“It got me a little curious. I’m not necessarily a stat guy or a details guy, I just kind of go how things feel, what I’m seeing, that type of stuff,’’ Ferentz said Saturday.
He asked Kammy Powell, Iowa’s head football trainer, to review statistics from within the Hawkeye program over the past five years.
Ferentz wanted to know how many concussions Iowa players had suffered during preseason camp.
“Just out of curiosity, I wanted to know because it sounds like it is a national crisis right now,’’ Ferentz said.
The results of research compiled by Powell and the Iowa athletic training staff she leads?
“We’ve had an average of 1.5 per year,’’ Ferentz said. “We had three in one year, two in one year and one, one, one in the other years.’’
He said Iowa had no concussions during the 15 spring practices it completed on Saturday.
“We haven’t had one this spring,’’ Ferentz said.
The Iowa coach gets the concern.
He also knows that the situation is much better today than it was a little over two decades ago when he returned to the Hawkeye program from the NFL.
Ferentz said improved equipment and protocol developed to treat players impacted by a concussion are making a difference.
“The world has changed so much,’’ Ferentz said.
The need to develop players has remained a constant, however.
“Football is a risky game. Anybody who has ever played it figures that out pretty fast if you watch it or paid attention. … My feeling is that it seems were almost trying to create a story here,’’ Ferentz said.
“We tend to be a copycat to the NFL. Whatever they do, we do, which is fine, but we’re not the NFL. We don’t play preseason games. We have to develop players. Most college teams do. Some don’t, but most do. We have to develop players.’’
And that starts on the practice field, where Ferentz is concerned that reducing the number of padded practices by more than 50% will not ultimately lead to the desired result.
“I’m a little concerned. It all starts with you can only learn to play football by playing football,’’ Ferentz said. “… The single biggest thing you can do to make camps safer is create more space.’’
The Football Oversight Committee reportedly rejected a proposal from the Southeastern Conference that would have expanded camp from 29 to 35 days while maintaining the current limit of 25 practices.
Ferentz said that is a move that he could support.
“The single biggest thing you can do to make camps safer is create more space,’’ Ferentz said, referencing the additional days off that would become part of an expanded camp, allowing for full-contact practices to be spread out over additional time.
“It’s a good idea to give guys more time away, let the body breathe and recover,’’ Ferentz said.