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Why I’m skeptical about a national college football injury report

The ACC had an injury report ... and one team still wasn’t forthcoming with it regarding its starting quarterback.
Everett Golson's time at Florida State included a notable omission on the Seminoles' injury report. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Everett Golson's time at Florida State included a notable omission on the Seminoles' injury report. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Published May 2, 2019

The NCAA is considering what might essentially be an injury report, according to a report Wednesday from CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd.

Dodd calls it the “first-ever standardized national player availability report” and writes that it could go into effect this fall.

The NCAA tapped the brakes a little after Dodd’s report.

It’s an interesting idea. It would get around privacy laws by not listing specific injuries and only calling a player available, possible or unavailable. Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin mentioned something similar during the SEC meetings last year in Destin —maybe you just say whether someone’s available or unavailable and leave it at that.

Here’s why I’m skeptical, and I hope you’re sitting down for this: Football coaches aren’t always completely honest or forthcoming.

An injury (or availability) report only works if coaches are upfront about their players. Some coaches are. Some are not. An injury report might not change that.

The ACC had one in 2015, but it didn’t stop Florida State from upsetting Syracuse. Quarterback Everett Golson began experiencing concussion-like symptoms on the Sunday before their game and was evaluated. Then-coach Jimbo Fisher said later that Golson got hit a few times the next day in practice and was limited in practice Monday and throughout the week.

He was not listed on FSU’s injury report.

But on game day, Golson did not start. Sean Maguire did, leading the No. 17 Seminoles to a 45-21 win. Fisher later said he didn’t find out until late Friday that Golson wouldn’t be able to play.

Regardless, Syracuse coach Scott Shafer was not happy.

“You try to be a gentleman with those situations, and some are,” Shafer said a few days after the game. "And (in) some incidences guys have reasons for not being a gentleman, I guess.

"At the end of the day you move forward, control those things that are out in front of you, and we'll put our report out there as long as the rest of the ACC feels like it's the right thing to do.”

This isn’t meant to single out Fisher or FSU; other programs might have done the same thing. The ACC didn’t punish schools for mishandling the injury reports, so you could argue that there’s no strategic incentive for a coach to be honest with them. In fact, there’s a strategic advantage in being dishonest. Syracuse prepared for the wrong quarterback.

But remember the context of that game. At the time, the ’Noles were 6-1, ranked No. 17 in the country and on their way to another 10-win season and New Year’s Six bowl. Syracuse was on a four-game losing streak, and Shafer was on his way to being fired. College football is, of course, unpredictable, but FSU was a 16-point favorite.

Yet FSU still chose not to disclose Golson’s injury.

If one team won’t be completely forthcoming about an injury to a quarterback who didn’t finish that year as a starter, against an overmatched team that canned its coach a few weeks later, what will teams do when the stakes are higher? Maybe before a top-five game, one coach lists everyone on his roster as “possible.” We’re all day-to-day, right?

Perhaps there’s a way to introduce a national, standardized report that properly rewards and punishes programs for being honest about players’ availability.

But I’m skeptical.