College football has a long-standing tradition unlike any other in American sports: withholding information regarding injured players. College football coaches have consistently used an injured player as an opportunity to distract or mislead the opposing team. By not releasing information regarding an injured player, coaches make it so other teams do not know how to prepare for upcoming games. If your gameplan to play against a certain player who ends up not playing due to injury, you have wasted a lot of practice time if not in need of an entirely new gameplan.
That tradition could be coming to an end, however. The athletic directors of the Big Ten football conference have submitted a proposal to institute a national system to report injuries for college football. While the exact details of the system are unknown, there seems to be widespread belief that a mandated injury reporting system is likely to be implemented. This system would mark a clear turn away from the strategic concealment of information and towards a transparency that would unprecedented in college football.
The NFL has had a mandatory injury reporting policy since 1946. The current NFL policy requires three practice reports during the week, with the first coming as early as five days before the game. Although a system for college football world seems inevitable, one that goes as far as its professional counterpart may be harder to achieve. “We don’t know I we want to report as many days as the NFL, but clearly on Mondays, if somebody is injured from Saturday and you know they’re not going to play the following Saturday because they broke their leg, why not just say that?” said Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith.
The main reason for this new system is the change in sports gambling laws occurring throughout the country. With legalized gambling comes questions about an informed betting public and fair play, especially at the amateur level. Still, there are going to be coaches who will rebel against this new policy. College football is a sport in which every inch is draped in tradition and change is rarely welcome. Even if coaches were open to breaking tradition it still wouldn’t mean that they are ready to give up a competitive advantage. In January of 2018, Washington State coach Mike Leach said “whatever weaknesses or vulnerabilities that we have as a team, I can’t possibly fathom why I would have any interest in revealing that to my opponent.”
While it might seem inappropriate for a coach to use an injury of one of his young players as a chance at gain an advantage over the other team, don’t underestimate how often it happens in the world of college football. Even so, a mandated system is a necessity in the modern age of sports and with the legalization of gambling pushing the proposal one would expect a system of some kind to be implemented very quickly.