There’s been a strong movement toward making football safer for players over the past decade. The NFL has been the leading entity in that regard. Commissioner Roger Goodall and the NFL Players Association have worked tirelessly to prevent head injuries in the league, albeit with no shortage of criticism from fans and players.
On Monday, however, it was the Ivy League that took a huge step in eliminating the most dangerous aspect of football: tackling.
According to the New York Times, football coaches from all eight Ivy League schools have unanimously voted to completely remove tackling from regular-season practices. The rule hasn’t been set in stone just yet, but it’e expected to be approved by the athletic directors, policy committee and university presidents.
The reason for this move is purely safety-driven. The NFL took a similar approach back in 2012, when the collective bargaining agreement limited the number of days a team could hold full-contact practices.
Granted, it wasn’t the big jump that the Ivy League is taking, but it’s certainly something the NFL could adopt in the future. After all, this isn’t the first time precautions have been taken in the collegiate ranks.
Aside from the NCAA placing a great emphasis on the targeting rule, the Ivy League limited the number of full-contact practices outside of the regular season — spring practices and the preseason — in 2011.
The Ivy League is making the point that you don’t need to hit in practice to know how to play in a game.
"At this stage in their careers, these guys know how to hit and take a hit," Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens told the Times. "People look at it and say we’re nuts. But it’s kept my guys healthy."
Teevens eliminated full-contact practices for Dartmouth back in 2010, so he’s been ahead of the curve. Now, it’s the Ivy League as a whole setting the precedent in football safety.
Will the NCAA follow suit and ban tackling in practice across the board? It probably — actually, definitely — wouldn’t go over well with some coaches and numerous players, given the competitiveness and toughness the sport is driven by.
However, it’s still a possibility. Parents have become more reluctant than ever to allow their kids to play football, which could ultimately lead to a decline in participation. No one, from fans to coaches, wants to see that. But perhaps the elimination of tackling in practice would lead parents to change their minds on the idea of their kids’ desire to play the game.
There’s no doubt a handful, if not more, coaches will see this as a way to diminish the level of play for their teams. Teevens doesn’t see it that way, and he actually believes it has an opposite effect.
"It hasn’t hurt our level of play," Teevens said. "It’s actually made us a better team."
This could certainly lead to a domino effect up across football. It could also be something that only sticks in the Ivy League. Regardless, it’s a big step toward making football safer for its players, especially with respect to head injuries.