As the “new normal” becomes, well, the new normal, the confusion of mid-March has transformed into frustration.
Coaches aren’t sure what they’re allowed and not allowed to do with their players during this extended period of limbo, and they’re sure coaches in leagues other than theirs are allowed to do more than them.
After dealing with more pressing matters at hand, administrators across the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 attempted to level the playing field as last week turned into this week by passing rules that allowed coaches to hold meetings with their players while at the same time barring them from observing or otherwise directing their players to do workouts or drills.
The conferences also clarified that schools could send their players gear, supplements and “reasonable” equipment to complete their workouts — stuff that will help them stay in something resembling playing shape in hopes of a quick ramp-up process upon (knock on wood) returning to campus this summer. Schools could send their players foam rollers, resistance bands and the like, the thinking was, but not ship every player a brand new Peloton.
Hold that thought, said Nick Saban.
In a teleconference with the local media on Thursday, Saban revealed Alabama had sent each of its players an Apple Watch so the Crimson Tide’s staff could monitor their heart rates.
“They were very instrumental in setting up this whole program of what we’re doing with the players in terms of Apple Watches for their workouts, apps on their phones for weight training programs,” Saban said. “We had an issue with some players not having a place to work out because high schools are closed. We put them on band workout programs. They’ve done a really, really good job of managing this to this point, and the players have done a really good job responding to it.”
Alabama sources clarified to The Athletic on Friday that the program was fully compliant with NCAA and SEC rules, and that the watches were simply for the nutrition and training staff to monitoring the team’s sleep. An explanation that is seemingly contradicted by Saban’s own quote above.
But it almost doesn’t even matter because it furthers the pre-existing perception that Saban’s dynasty is always one step ahead of the law no matter the situation. Who’s going to believe that Alabama didn’t send those watched pre-programmed with a specially designed app that shocks each player if they haven’t done at least 250 squats that day? No one. No one is going to believe that.
Interesting because Eli Drinkwitz told us yesterday he’s not even allowed to ask players if they worked out that day. https://t.co/JrYtEVXtpr
— Gabe DeArmond (@GabeDeArmond) April 2, 2020
Dabo: "Our guys are putting the work in, I don't need an Apple watch to track them"
— Anna Hickey (@AnnaH247) April 3, 2020
This development goes to show that no matter how “new” this normal is, some things in college football never change no matter the circumstances.