CHICAGO — Don’t expect NFL-style injury reports to become the norm in college football.
Instead, anticipate that college programs will be required to announce "availability lists" for upcoming games as a byproduct of the recent United States Supreme Court decision allowing expanded sports wagering.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany conceded at the conference’s recent kickoff event that such lists are inevitable and will likely be combined with a heavy dose of education for players, coaches and staff members at all Big Ten institutions.
"Whether that comes out of an injury or whether it comes out of eligibility or comes out of some transgression of one kind or another, I think we need to do that," Delany said. "I think we need to do that nationally."
To this point, college teams have been on their own when it comes to announcing injuries.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has traditionally announced early in the week if a player has been ruled out of that week’s game or will miss a significant amount of time.
If a player remains questionable, that is typically the only health update provided prior to kickoff.
"If I know a guy is out there with a shaky ankle, are we going to game plan to protect him as much as possible? Most likely," Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. "There are reasons coaches don’t like to get too detailed when it comes to injuries."
In some cases, federal privacy laws factor into the equation at the collegiate level.
Ferentz recently found himself unable to discuss details of an injury that sidelined and ultimately ended the playing career of reserve running back Toks Akinribade because his family had declined to sign off on paperwork that would have allowed him to talk about it.
While some schools have offered partial or minimal injury information, Illinois and Northwestern in recent seasons have released some level of injury report on a weekly basis.
Fighting Illini coach Lovie Smith has announced an NFL-style report weekly, and Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald has produced a similar list prior to each game.
"I’ve been accused of sometimes being honest and sometimes being less than honest," Fitzgerald said. "And, I would agree with that."
Penn State coach James Franklin does not want whatever type of list is ultimately agreed upon to list specifics about injured players.
"If I tell you he has a bad ankle, what are they going to do? They’re going to go after the ankle," Franklin said. "If you have a weakness, why would you let people know?"
Franklin believes enforcement of standardized procedures will be difficult and questions whether that becomes an NCAA issue or a campus-by-campus compliance issue.
"There are a lot of unanswered questions right now," he said.
The complexities of what exists currently are among the reasons Delany sees a need for standardized procedures when it comes to addressing availability of players with the likelihood of expanded gambling opportunities.
"The reason we need to do that is probably with the exception of home field, the availability of personnel is critical to people who are interested in gambling legally or illegally," Delany said. "Therefore, when players are unavailable, we should know that. If they’re probable or likely, I don’t have the model code, I do think it’s something we should do and probably should have done before."
Fitzgerald sees a need for a fully transparent conference-wide or national report to be announced at a predetermined time each week.
"I’d have no problem with that as long as we adhere to it," Fitzgerald said. "There needs to be accountability. If there is not accountability, then I’ll do whatever I have to do to protect our players, first and foremost, and protect our program second, in full disclosure of transparency."
Delany’s preference would be for federal regulations that would exclude intercollegiate athletics, high school athletics and Olympic sports from sportsbook betting options. If that’s not possible, he would support state-by-state regulations.
Coaches and Delany see a need for changes extending beyond announcing a list of players who are available to participate each week.
They see a need for greater education for their players and staff members.
Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck sees that as a necessity.
"Any time you legalize something like that, it brings out even more termites in the wood," Fleck said.
The Golden Gophers coach said his players can expect to hear from plenty of speakers, including FBI agents, about how to avoid potential problems.
"First and foremost, we need to educate our guys on the issue," Fitzgerald said. "We need to make them, players and staff, aware about how far people will go to get information. Do people ask questions that they have never asked before? Guys need to be in tune with those types of things."
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has his own solution for players who find themselves being asked about health situations of teammates.
"Turn and run," Harbaugh said. "Run fast and avoid that situation. Say nothing to anybody, especially the people you really don’t know. That’s what we’ll tell our staff and players."