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College football coaches cautious about injury information they share
College football coaches set aside time each week to meet with the TV announcers broadcasting their game.
They often provide tidbits on injuries or strategy that aren't given to other reporters, to help make the broadcast more enjoyable for fans. But fans aren't the only ones watching.
Virginia coach Mike London, as well as others in the profession, have their staffs record games of future opponents, scanning them for anything that could give an edge. As a result, London tries to watch his own comments.
"There's a fine line when you talk about injury," he said. "The next team, or the team after that, has a TV copy of the game, can hear those types of comments, and maybe game plan based on something you've pointed out to the entire country."
Such is life in the paranoid world of college football coaching, where updates on injured players are closely guarded.
The issue flared up this season when USC coach Lane Kiffin left a press conference after being asked about an injury — he won't answer those questions.
Meanwhile, coaches who do share information worry they put themselves at a competitive disadvantage.
The ACC is the first conference to tackle the issue, mandating a weekly, NFL-style injury report that lists players as out, doubtful, questionable or probable.
"The idea was not to be talking about it all week, to put it out on Thursday and let that be it," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said.
But even that system has been open to gaming. Last week, seven conference schools listed the exact nature of a player's injury, while the five others provided either no information, or separated players into "upper extremity" and "lower extremity" injuries.
North Carolina is one school that does not provide additional information.
"Why give something to the opponent when you're not getting anything out of it?" coach Larry Fedora told the Associated Press. "It's no more than I would tell you what the first play of the game is going to be, or when we're going to call a trick play."
London, as well as other coaches, said that even when being forthright, fans and journalists often suspect something is being hidden.
At Richmond, coach Danny Rocco said he's "probably a little more open than I wish I was" about injuries, but even he doesn't always know how a situation will play out.
"There's a lot of to-be-determined status," he said. "There's always the assumption that the coach knows something, and he's just not offering something.
"When guys are day-to-day, they really are day-to-day."
The ACC's program has been met with approval by coaches, who agree to participate in the system voluntarily.
Maryland coach Randy Edsall likes it because it's something he can cite instead of having to constantly field injury questions.
Other conferences, including the Pac 12, are considering adopting a similar reporting system, trying to balance satisfying fans' questions without giving information that opponents could use to target a player.
"If they could make a national rule, I think that would be great, so everybody's just dealing with it the same way and you don't have any issues," Edsall said.
Even then, with the importance of every game in college football, expect coaches to continue to seek any edge they can. Even if that means watching the same TV broadcast as the rest of us.
Read about the University of Virginia at TimesDispatch.com
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