Sports | August 5, 2020 10:52 am

What the NFL Can Learn From an Ivy League Football Program

Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens eliminated tackling during practice in 2011

What the NFL Can Learn From an Ivy League Football Program
Dartmouth Big Green head coach Buddy Teevens looks on during a 2019 game. (Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty)
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With losses on the field and injuries on his roster mounting in 2011, Dartmouth football coach Buddy Teevens came up with a radical idea to help correct what was going wrong with his team: eliminate tackling at practice.

Assistant coaches were not impressed with the idea and thought he was kidding but, as Teevens explained, players would still practice the fundamentals of tackling, they’d just no longer do it on one another.

“God, this is idiotic,” an assistant told Teevens. “We’re all going to get fired.”

In the first year of eliminating tackling, the team’s overall injury rate fell 80 percent and the concussion rate plummeted 58 percent while the team’s rate of making tackles on the field actually went up, according to Teevens. The wins began to follow and Dartmouth has won 76 percent of its games since 2014, tops in Ivy League.

Following the lead of Teevens and Dartmouth, the Ivy League as a whole banned tackling during practice in 2016.

Now, with the NFL forced to scale back the number of padded practices teams will have and looking to reduce contact in general thanks to COVID-19 concerns (practices with full contact in NFL camps are banned until August 17), pro football has a lot to learn from Dartmouth and the Ivy League, according to The Wall Street Journal.

This offseason, NFL coaches will follow the lead of Teevens whether they like it or not. Steve Spurrier, who employed Teevens for three seasons at Florida, believes the techniques that worked at Dartmouth will work in the NFL.

“When you have injuries in practice, that’s really stupid,” he told The Journal. “Why would you beat the crap out of your own team and players? I used to tell people: When the army’s preparing for battle, they don’t use live bullets against each other. So why use live collisions when we get ready for opponents?”

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