FENNO: Championship game provides an opportunity to listen to those who play

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An Auburn or Florida State player could, in theory, be concussed during Monday’s game and return for the next play — such a maneuver would violate one tenant of those concussion policies the schools are supposed to have — without eliciting so much as a phone call or inquiry from the NCAA.

Last year, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, Dr. Brian Hainline, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that keeping athletes from returning the play the same day they suffered a concussion wasn’t “widely accepted” until 2012. Such a practice, however, is hardly new to anything with a passing familiarity with the issue.

Hainline, incidentally, used to work with Dr. Elliot Pellman, the notorious NFL medical consultant known for suspect science on a series of concussion-related studies, at ProHealth Care Associates in New York. Among Pellman’s claims: players could return to games after concussions.

When Mark Emmert hired Hainline in 2012, the NCAA president noted that his organization “was founded on the commitment to protect and enhance the health and well-being of student-athletes.” The same commitment the NCAA explicitly denied in the court papers.

That’s just the start of the problem the banner wants the NCAA (and the Rose Bowl crowd) to wake up to.

While the NFL’s reduction on contact practices (14 during the 17-week regular season) has trickled down to the Ivy League and Pac-12, NCAA rules still permit football teams five such practices each week. Most schools are wise enough not to use that allotment. But the Stone Age frequency of contact remains entirely legal for those interested in indulging in such head-crunching theatrics.

Last month, 10 class-action lawsuits over the NCAA’s handling of concussions involving 18 former college football players were consolidated with a long-running case in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Meanwhile, the NCAA enjoys 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, Emmert made $1.7 million in 2011, the most recent year records were available, and next year’s new College Football Playoff bring schools an estimated $400 million in annual revenue.

On Monday, the nine-word banner will try to remind us that this is just a game obscuring a sobering reality with consequences that remain long after the glow from a national title has worn off. And the NCAA needs to wake up.

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