Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said today he would be in favor of a conference-wide injury reporting policy in the Pac-12, an idea suggested by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott on Saturday.
UW became one of the latest schools last week to announce it would no longer discuss injuries, saying that since other schools also withhold that information that the Huskies are being put at a competitive disadvantage.
But Woodward said after he heard of Larry Scott’s proposal that he called the commissioner and said he “applauded him about putting forth a great idea.”
Larry Scott said the issue would be put on the agenda for the next meeting of Pac-12 athletic directors on Oct. 8-9 in Berkeley, though it’s possible it could be talked about before that via conference call. Larry Scott said the conference could adopt something similar to the NFL’s policy of listing players during the week as out, questionable, doubtful, probable, etc.
Woodward said he thought there was merit to adopting that plan.
“Probably that’s a model that is tried and true,” he said. “Could it be improved on? Absolutely, But I don’t want to re-create the wheel and come up with something that is novel because that is going to take some time. So I would be very comfortable with what the NFL does.” The ACC also has a similar policy.
UW coach Steve Sarkisian also said today he would be in favor of some sort of uniform policy on reporting injuries
“First thing came to mind, I’m all for it. If we standardized the mechanism for updating the injury report, that puts everyone on the same level,” he said. “It would be the best thing.. … Everybody will try to find a loophole, but at least it forces your hand to do something. it puts everybody under the same rules and regulations rather it be nothing, which is where we are today. … I’d be in favor of something that puts an umbrella on something that says these are the guidelines.”
Woodward said he thought it “natural for the Pac-12 to have leadership” in addressing this topic since “we are the most open conference to the media, there’s no question about that, that our teams with few exceptions, there are three or four that don’t let the media go to practice. But for the most part we are pretty darn open and I think when you get that you worry about things that are unintended like a competitive disadvantage.”
One issue is what to do with non-conference games against teams from conferences that don’t disclose injuries. Woodward said it could be that the Pac-12 would simply not disclose injuries for those games.
Sarkisian has had varying degrees of open practices throughout his time at Washington in contrast to predecessor Tyrone Willingham, who kept practices closed other than a 20-minute period at the beginning. Currently, all of UW’s Tuesday and Wednesday practices are open to the media and Woodward said it is his preference that some practices remain open.
“I’ll back my coach with what he wants to do,” said Woodward. “But my personal preference is to have open practices. I like doing that. But I am not going to do it at the expense of our football team. I’m not going to allow that to happen.
“. … I have to trust coaches on that standpoint and what they say and what they feel about it. And everything is subjective. You could argue that Tyrone (Willingham) shut practices down and he lost football games so that’s a bad model. Or I could say Nick Saban shut practices down (when Woodward worked with Saban at LSU), and that ‘oh that’s a good model.’ You can’t say one way or the other. It works for us, it’s the University of Washington, it’s Seattle, we like to be open. That’s who we are, that’s what we want to be. But we are not going to do it at the expense of our team and if our coaches feel like it puts us at a competitive disadvantage then we are going to have to get some rules of engagement and start talking about it and talk to you guys individually about it. That’s an important thing in what we do because you guys don’t want us to have a competitive disadvantage, that’s not what you are about either. We are all in this together and that’s how I feel about it and that’s my view of the world.”
Woodward acknowledged it’s a tough issue because of the nature of information these days, saying “there’s so much access and there’s so many people and so many access points in it that there are no more secrets. In the ’70s you could hide injuries, or in the ’80s you could hide injuries and no one would ever know. You can’t hide anything now.”
And one issue is how to enforce penalties for schools that try to hide injuries — the NFL levies fines. “You tell me,” he said. “How do you enforce traffic tickets? That’s always the tough question.”
But Woodward said he thought a solution could be reached that would satisfy coaches and media.
“I think there’s a way to work this out,” he said. “I’m sure Commissioner Scott will be careful in talking to all of my colleagues, as well as me, and talking about what is the right thing to do. I’m just one voice of 12. But it makes all the sense in the world to me.”