IHSA to take vote on football summer contact

Whether high school football players in Illinois will be permitted to participate in full-padded summer camps will come down to a vote of IHSA member schools.

On Tuesday, the IHSA's legislative committee voted to eliminate contact or "live action" drills during the summer. Schools can vote starting Wednesday through midnight on April 18. If passed, Illinois would become the 20th state in the country to eliminate full-padded summer workouts.

Results will be announced April 21. Only A simple majority is necessary.

Currently, 29 states allow offseason full-contact drills, either in spring or summer.

Teams are currently allowed to begin practicing in full pads starting on the fifth day of the 25-day summer contact period. While IHSA officials understand most coaches already limit full-contact drills, the rule change would keep "rogue" coaches from not putting any limits on how much players hit one another.

"We think this (proposal) is something that brings some limitations to our summer activities in football that we basically we had no control over," IHSA associate director and football administrator Craig Anderson said Tuesday. "That opportunity (for coaches to provide unlimited full-contact drills) was concerning on a few different levels...It was just time to put into place some protocols that provided some restrictions."

Crystal Lake Central coach Matt Fralick is torn about how big of impact not being able to work out in full pads would be. The Tigers work out six to seven times in full pads, starting with a two-week team camp in mid-July and then again more toward the end of summer workouts.

But Fralick said he can understand why the IHSA is considering eliminating full-padded workouts to help curb serious head injuries.

"It won't change much for most programs, but the tough part will be at the end of the summer when programs need to evaluate their kids as far as contact goes," Fralick said Tuesday. "But I don't personally have a problem with it. I think you can evaluate kids in helmets and shoulder pads pretty much the whole summer."

Under the proposal, schools would only be allowed to practice in helmets for the first two days of summer workouts before moving to helmets and shoulder pads on the third day and beyond.

The IHSA began considering limits after meeting with officials from the Sports Legacy Institute and Korey Stringer Institute as well as conducting town hall meetings with State Rep. Carol Sente, D-Lincolnshire. Anderson said members of the IHSA football advisory committee and sports medicine committee determined that some restrictions needed to be put in place.

Whether the IHSA's full membership agrees remains to be seen.

"I think (coaches) have reached that point and are understanding that the days of going live in the summer are gone," Anderson said. "I think the (football) advisory committee believes that they can get the skills and the techniques taught so that in the fall, when it is time to go live and full-contact, they will have developed those techniques."