Myth busted! 15-practice rule doesn’t exist!

I know it sounds stupid and you might wonder why it was worth writing this entire story for today’s paper, but this got personal. Here’s the background:

A few weeks back, Alabama announced it was going to open practice for the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl on Dec. 16. That got people thinking — myself included. How can they possibly get the full 15 practices in before playing Michigan State?

So I asked an Alabama spokesman what the deal was when he released the practice schedule that included just 13. He said he didn’t think there was a rule.

That was interesting to me since I had always written about a 15-practice limit before bowl games mandated by the NCAA. This “rule” was referenced in all kinds of stories published by many credible news sources. So that’s what I wrote (evidence found here).

But after trading emails with UA and the rule was called into question, I started hunting around. I poured through the NCAA rule book and found no reference to a 15-practice limit. There is also a separate publication from the NCAA specific to bowl games. Still, no rule listed.

That’s when I got frustrated. How can so many reporters — again myself included — write about this rule if it can’t be found. Finally, I wrote to Stacey Osburn, the NCAA spokesperson who deals with infractions. Here’s what she wrote back in response:

“I’m not sure where the media has gotten the number 15 either, because it is not accurate.”

There is, however, a 15-date limit for spring practice. None for bowl prep.

So, there you go. Myth busted. It won’t win me my first Pulitzer, but I felt good about trying to end this trend of lazy reporting — a sin that I was guilty of — along with some of the big shots (who’ll remain nameless).

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