By Ken Reed

No more tackling during football practice — at least not in the Ivy League.

Starting this upcoming football season, Ivy League teams will not be allowed to tackle during practices. It is a move to reduce injuries, most notably concussions.

“We know the damage major collisions, or even a lot of minor ones, can do to the brain,” wrote journalist/professor John U. Bacon about the Ivy’s decision. “We’ve seen the studies, looked at the scans, and heard the horror stories.”

Critics of the move, say the decision will lead to poor tackling, sloppy football, and more injuries due to the lack of practicing proper tackling techniques.

But there is precedent here.

Legendary John Gagliardi, of Division III St. John’s in Minnesota, eliminated hitting in practice decades ago. He went on to win four national titles, and 489 games, the most of any coach, at any NCAA level. Yes, it was Division III, but his Division III opponents continued to practice tackling in practice. Gagliardi proved you can win in football without practicing tackling. Gagliardi had a lot fewer injuries, which might have contributed to the team’s winning ways.

Ivy League member Dartmouth eliminated tackling in practice back in 2010. They then proceeded to finish third, second and tied for first in the Ivy League the next three years.

“People look at it and say we’re nuts,” said Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens in an interview with The New York Times. “But it’s kept my guys healthy. It hasn’t hurt our level of play. It’s actually made us a better team.”

The Ivy League, known for its brain power, has made a very smart decision. Other college conferences would be smart to follow suit. The same holds true for the nation’s high schools. If not, parents will continue to pull their kids from the sport.

As Bacon wrote, “If football wants to avoid becoming a guilty pleasure, like boxing, it has to do something, and now.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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