At the start of Big 12 Media Days in Dallas on Monday, commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced a league-wide reduction of in-season live tackling opportunities in practice in an effort to reduce the number of injuries suffered by student-athletes.
The NCAA does not currently limit such opportunities, but the Big 12 will now join the Pac-12 and Ivy League in allowing schools to tackle players to the ground and engage in full-speed blocking only two days per week once the season begins. However, the rule does not limit the number of days that can include "thud" tempo.
"The Big 12 Conference continues to take the lead in the area of player safety as the first conference to enact more restrictive contact polices than currently permitted," said Bowlsby. "Our policy is a 33-percent reduction in the number of contact opportunities allowed under NCAA guidelines. Limiting the number of live contact practices and giving medical practitioners unchallengeable authority on return to play decisions unequivocally demonstrates the commitment of our membership to the health and safety of Big 12 student-athletes. I applaud our athletics directors on implementing an industry-leading approach."
Coaches contacted by Bruce Feldmand of FOX Sports believe that most programs have already voluntarily limited the number of full-contact practices during the season, so the change likely won't have a great deal of impact on the Longhorns or any other conference schools. Still, head coach Charlie Strong is known for favoring physical practices, so he's probably not a fan of the rule change.
A bigger potential concern is opposing coaches using it as an opportunity for negative recruiting. The Big 12 is already known as a wide-open league that favors offenses and features defenses with limited ability to stop them, so don't be surprised if SEC schools start telling defensive recruits that the limitations imposed by the Big 12 will keep them from developing as quickly as players.
Given the massive issues Texas and other Big 12 schools are facing recruiting against programs like Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M, dealing with that type of negative recruiting is one of the last things they need.