Pac-12 to limit contact during football practice

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SEATTLE — Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott weighed in favorably Monday on the general health of the conference. Now it wants to enhance the well-being of those playing the games.

The league announced a student-athlete health initiative that addresses the growing concerns over concussions, and will regulate football contact practices whose cumulative effect has been shown to be a factor in head injuries.

“We believe it’s a great first step,” said Scott, speaking on a year-ending teleconference that capped the league’s weekend meetings in Park City, Utah.

Scott said the initiative is nine months in the making and the result of collaboration with school presidents, heads of research, doctors and trainers. He cited more than 200 ongoing research projects on Pac-12 campuses related to sports science.

The league is committing $3.5 million to the initiative, which will establish a steering committee of doctors and researchers from Pac-12 schools, schedule a summit in early 2014 and implement a student-athlete health conference.

Scott says the league will “codify” policies already in practice at league schools regarding limited-contact workouts, one he said is more restrictive than NCAA policies. He declined to be more specific, saying more details would emerge at football media day in Los Angeles July 26.

In other news:

Scott said Pac-12 Networks would be profitable in its first year, calling it “as successful a sports network as we’ve seen.” He expressed frustration at not having reached agreement with DirecTV, and conceded that “so far, we have not gotten any positive reaction (in brokering a deal).” But with a second year of the big-ticket events in football and basketball ahead, he said, “Now fans know how many games they’re going to miss. There’s no mystery around that anymore like there was last year. I feel confident there will be a significant paradigm shift.”

With new bowl contracts taking effect with the 2014 season, Scott sees “improved matchups” and “the possibility of adding a new bowl to the mix.” The San Jose Mercury News reported that to be the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, the former Insight.com Bowl.

Scott said he expects to announce in a couple of weeks a “restructuring” in the oversight of basketball officials after the April ouster of coordinator Ed Rush. An independent report by an Indianapolis law firm revealed a split among league officials — an “old guard” that considered Rush “arrogant and authoritarian,” and another faction that backed Rush and his approach.

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