Summer school began at Notre Dame this week and will conclude August 3. Then on Aug. 4, the Irish football players will report to begin preparations for the Sept. 1 opener against Navy in Ireland.
Notre Dame strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo will have the most interaction amongst the irish players this summer.
In other words, there really is no summer vacation from here on out. That led to the famous “Go play intramurals, brother!” rant by former Colorado head football coach Dan Hawkins a few years ago when a parent registered a complaint about college football players having so little free time.
This brings us to the popular inquiry of, “How much can the football players work out in the summer, and how involved can the coaching staff be with the players?”
During football season, the NCAA permits 20 hours per week involvement with football practices, meetings, etc. — but no more than four hours on any given day outside of game day. One day off per week is mandatory. For the Irish, that day in recent years has been Monday because Sunday is used for film review of the game, plus meetings.
In the off-season, such as now, NCAA regulations allow players to spend eight hours a week on mandatory workouts. Here are the basics from the NCAA Compliance manual:
• The 20-hours-per-week-rule during the season drops to 8 hours per week in the summer (but again, no more than four hours per day). Players are required to have two days off per week.
• In sports other than football, participation in up to two hours of skill instruction by coaches is permissible. In football, skill-instruction activities are limited to review of game film — but with no coaches present.
• Conditioning drills simulating offensive/defensive alignments are impermissible. Equipment related to the sport — shoulder pads, knee pads, etc. in football — may not be used (exceptions are made for hockey & swimming/diving).
• Strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo becomes the most important figure at this time of the year because he has the most interaction with the football student-athletes. During eight designated weeks of voluntary summer conditioning activities, strength coaches may conduct strength and conditioning workouts for student-athletes within the aforementioned eight-hour time frame during the week.
• No “countable” coaches — meaning head coach Brian Kelly or any of his position group assistants — may be present. Furthermore, strength and conditioning coaches may not report back to countable coaches.
• Student-athletes may work out at their discretion outside the 8 hours per week — better known as “mandatory voluntary workouts.” This is where 7-on-7 passing drills come in at college campuses all across the country. However, neither countable nor strength coaches can be involved with these workouts — other than the strength coaches may monitor the facility for health and safety purposes. A staff trainer also could be present for safety purposes or treat any injuries.
• Players can do as much film review as they want — but not with any countable coaches. For example, none of Notre Dame’s four quarterback candidates can walk into the Guglielmino Athletics Complex and converse with Kelly or offensive coordinator Chuck Martin or anyone else on the staff about the game tape he is watching.
“If they want to voluntarily watch tape on their own, they can go into the meeting rooms downstairs and pull up whatever they want to look at,” summarized Notre Dame football media relations director Brian Hardin. “But they can’t go up to Chuck’s office or have Chuck down there with them and go through plays together. That type of interaction is not allowed.”
A few years ago, Michigan got into some NCAA hot water under former head coach Rich Rodriguez for 1) exceeding the permitted hours allowed and 2) Wolverine players told the Detroit Free Press that the football staff often watched off-season scrimmages that are supposed to be voluntary.
Later, the school released details of an internal audit that discovered Rodriguez's team failed to file forms tracking how much time players spent on football, both during the season and off-season.
According to Hardin, coaches aren’t even allowed to “accidentally” view any such summer workouts. If a head coach has windows in his office that look into an indoor practice facility, he would have to have his blinds drawn.