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Should Ohio high schools add spring football?

Commentator Terry Pluto says he hopes Ohio does not move off "a common-sense environment” for high school kids and football.

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Amanda Rabinowitz
Cleveland St. Ignatius football coach Chuck Kyle, who is also the school's track coach, is against Ohio adding spring football.
Courtesy of Amanda Rabinowitz
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As it stands in Ohio, high school football teams are limited to when they can begin practicing. They can hold some camps and clinics in June and July, but full practices cannot begin until August.

But, debate has resurfaced about whether or not to allow Ohio school teams to practice in the spring. Powerhouse schools in Texas and Florida have three weeks beginning in April dedicated to full-contact football at a time when colleges are recruiting. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto talks about the arguments for and against the idea.

LISTEN: Terry Pluto talks spring football

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As it stands, high school coaches in Ohio are allowed to instruct up to four players at a time during the spring. They then have a 10-day period over June and July in which they can hold camps, practices, and seven-on-seven scrimmages. But, there's a push to allow full-contact practices in the spring.

“The top college programs in the country really are run like NFL programs, and what you’re seeing now is the top high school programs around the county are mimicking college programs,” says WKSU commentator Terry Pluto

The argument for more football is that it could help college coaches better size up Ohio’s top prospects. The spring recruiting evaluation period runs from April 15 to May 31, or the same time as schools in in Texas (18 spring practices) and California (10 practices) are practicing. 

Odds are slim
Pluto says high school players are already pushed to specialize and practice just one sport. “And then they sell you what I call the phony dream,” playing in college and then the NFL.

Pluto quotes Ohio High School Athletic Association stats: “Only 6 percent of all kids playing high school football in Ohio end up actually playing in college -- not Division I, but in college, period. But parents are told, ‘Your kid’s the one that could go to Ohio State.'"

“Ninety-four percent of these kids, the last high school game they play of football is the last game they play … other than touch football in the backyard or at the field with their buddies.”

Pluto says investment in high school football is already great enough. He says players are under "subtle pressure" to be int he weight room much of the year. "And, you’re playing football in the fall, you start practicing in July, you probably go to your camps in June. Because Texas does it and Florida does it is not a good argument.”

Opponents include Cleveland powerhouse
Pluto notes that the opponents to the idea include legendary St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle. “Now if any school would want spring football, it should be St. Ignatius with a 1,000 boys and this powerhouse.” But Kyle coaches track, as well as football, “so he sees benefits to spring sports. And I think he just (questions), ‘How much football is enough?’”

NFL eliminates 'two-a-days'
Pluto notes that the new NFL labor agreement cut down on two-a-day practices because of “fear of injuries, concussions, general wear and tear on the body. If the NFL looks at this and says, ‘Maybe there is such a thing as too much football,’ why do the high schools want to add more contact football?'"

Injuries a concern
With concussions and other cumulative injuries, Pluto maintains, “The risk of injury adding another 15 practices for contact in the spring is just not worth it.”

Pluto notes that the idea is being promoted by Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and that he wants college coaches to come scout the practices. “And of course the parents are, ‘Oh this is be great. My son will get exposure.’”

“But I’ve got news for you: If he can play, they’ll find him.”

Pluto says the change would need to be OK’d by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, and “I hope Ohio does not move off a common-sense environment” for high school kids and football."

Terry Pluto on the Johnny Manziel dilemma
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Related WKSU Stories

Terry Pluto on college sports, unions, and where it all may be heading
Tuesday, April 15, 2014

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