On Saturday night, the Associated Press reported Miami could practice up to 15 times before its bowl game, per NCAA rules. The AP is not the first media outlet to accept that long-held rumor as fact and certainly won’t be the last.
What’s important is that it’s not true. There is no specific NCAA rule detailing the quantity of postseason practices outside of standard regular season hourly requirements. According to the NCAA, “these rules limit practice and other athletic activities to a maximum of four hours per day and 20 hours per week.”
The “15 bowl practice max” myth likely emerged from the NCAA’s spring practice guidelines, which limit teams to 15 practices within a period of 34 consecutive days.
UNC utilized three primary practice periods during the regular season – on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for Saturday games - along with walkthroughs on Sunday and Friday.
UNC head coach Larry Fedora told reporters that the Tar Heels will not practice during finals, which began on Friday, Dec. 6.
“We had a practice [on Sunday] and we will practice this upcoming weekend when finals are over with and then we will go from there,” Fedora said. “I’m thinking that we’re probably going to get somewhere between 10 and 12 practices in preparation.”
As well as giving the players a much-needed break to rest and prepare for exams, the NCAA’s recruiting window also played a role in the delayed start to bowl prep. The quiet period ended on Nov. 30, the day following UNC’s season finale against Duke, and the current contact period runs through Dec. 14.
UNC’s coaching staff is on the road recruiting this week and will likely begin studying game film of Cincinnati this weekend, according to Fedora.
While there may seem to be a consensus amongst some fan bases to maximize postseason practices, it’s actually rare for head coaches push the rule’s constraints. Alabama head coach Nick Saban, for example, is on record as preferring to schedule 12 -14 practices prior to bowl appearances, despite having as many as 36 days in between games.
Fedora indicated that he’s been on coaching staffs before where bowl prep started early and the players actually got bored with the reps. To prevent that type of scenario in Chapel Hill, the initial emphasis will focus on the 2014 season.
“What we’ll do is prepare for the future in these early practices and get as many reps as we possibly can,” the second-year UNC head coach said. “And as we get into the latter half of our practices, then we will start implementing our game plan for Cincinnati.”
UNC will travel to Charlotte on Dec. 23 and practice at Charlotte Country Day in the days leading up to the bowl game.