Before the Ivy League decided to eliminate tackling from football practice there was a coach that did so not long ago and for his entire football coaching career. The coach was John Gagliardi; he was written about in the New York Times by writer Thayer Evans in his article “No Whistles, No Tackling and No End in Sight for St. John’s Coach” back in September of 2009. In the article about coach Gagliardi, Evans stated the following, “He does not allow tackling in practice, has no playbook and does not require his players to participate in strength and conditioning workouts. There is no yelling, no tackling dummies and no whistles. His quarterbacks call most of the plays”. The elimination of tackling in practice was the coach doing what he thought was right and based on the long successful coaching career that he had; he was right. During his 60 years of coaching he compiled a record of 489-138-11. Coach John Gagliardi has the most wins of any college football coach in history. Coach Gagliardi was the 2003 winner of the Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award presented annually by the United States Sports academy.
The move by Ivy League coaches to collectively decide that they would take the leap faith and eliminate all tackling from practice during the regular season is commendable but again let us not lose sight of the fact that Saint John’s Coach Gagliardi did the same thing his entire coaching career and prior to knowing of the depth and growing concerns that we have to today regarding head and brain trauma and other injuries suffered from collision sports like football.
The difference in the decision that is being taken by the Ivy League is that it is a collective decision by the league’s coaches, athletic directors and college and university administrators.
The decision to eliminate contact and tackling in practice is a move in the right direction but the fundamentals of tackling still have to be taught and coaches must teach proper tackling technique at all levels.
Fred Cromartie, Ed. D.
Dr. Cromartie is the Director of Doctoral Studies at the United States Sports Academy. He can be reached at cromarti