The Brohm Plan: So off-the-wall, it just might work
A cerebral guy, a football man and a player’s coach through and through, Jeff Brohm was in just as much agony as any of his Big Ten peers when the conference yanked the chair out from underneath its programs earlier this week.
“Our guys are taking it hard,” Brohm told Rivals site Gold and Black.
But while much of the conversation swirled around potential dissent from Ohio State, Nebraska and so on, Brohm was relatively quiet. No filibustering. Hasn’t tweeted since the middle of June.
Now we know what Purdue’s head coach has been up to.
The COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying societal swings this year have necessitated an embrace of the unconventional. Even when you’re facing a novel coronavirus, morals, responsibility and ethics don’t change. But how they’re applied can. In a lot of instances, they have to.
Which is why Brohm’s plan for spring and fall seasons in 2021 looks so weird on the surface level that it actually makes a lot of sense.
At first glance, through the lens of how the sport’s been played the past 150 years, you think “what a cluster.” But read the plan. The whole thing.
It’s so easy for us to get sucked into the need for instant reaction and opinion without taking the time establish full context. Just look at some of the national reaction to Nebraska’s desire to play this fall that, somehow, turned into speculation its leaders want to leave the conference for good.
Take your time. Soak it in. Think about it.
“The point in here is to prove it can be done,” Brohm told Sport’s Illustrated’s Pete Thamel.
Just spoke to Purdue’s Jeff Brohm about his plan for the spring. He stressed that he’s open to working with the Big Ten and doesn’t see this as a definitive plan. “The point in here is to prove that it can be done.” Limiting padded practices, contact and wear and tear are keys. pic.twitter.com/WEHUbWa7OF
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) August 13, 2020
Eight games from Feb. 27-April 17. Ten more from Oct. 2-Dec. 11 of next year. Up to a 3-month break — as in no workouts — in between. Postseason contingencies — either the usual 4-team College Football Playoff or a 6-team bracket with the Power 5 conference champs, 1 wild card and first-round byes for the top 2 seeds.
A 9-page, detailed plan, complete with health and safety precautions and comparative data. A table of contents. The thing is even color-coded and mentions when collegiate basketball games could be played during the crossover time.
Can you tell Brohm coaches at a school that values hoops and football? Not to mention engineering?
It’s a well-thought-out blueprint, a CAD model for college football during a pandemic. It answers a lot of questions B1G brass has failed to tackle publicly.
If this entire convoluted situation centers on player safety — which according to commissioner Kevin Warren, it does — how is postponing the 2020 season to early next year reconcilable?
Brohm’s plan, he says, calls for “more complete rest periods than a typical year” and “significantly less padded practice.” The spring season would include only 1 padded practice per week during each regular season.
There are charts outlining all this in great numerical detail.
— Purdue Football (@BoilerFootball) August 13, 2020
“Games are not the only measure of preserving physical health,” Brohm says in his Word document, complete with his signature at the bottom of each page. “The accumulation of contact between practices and games must be taken into account. As much as possible, this plan focuses the bodily impact of contact and hits to game situations.”
It also eliminates spring practice in 2022 to add in recovery time from playing 18-22 games in 10-11 months.
Brohm even thought about the weather, laying out “the average temperature is the same in March as November throughout the Big Ten.”
For fans, this would be the closest thing to making up for a lost 2020 season. Two go-rounds in one year? Not to mention TV deals and other financial ramifications. Just Thursday, the New York Post reported the B1G could lose around $1 billion due to canceling the fall season.
“Television buzz and must-see energy will abound” in the spring, Brohm says.
In an age of uncertainty, though, it’s impossible to come up with clear-cut answers to every question.
First of all, why is a coach apparently the first to put this much detail and effort into scenario planning? To date, the conference has provided zero details about what a spring season would look like.
The B1G’s 14 presidents and Warren have vast financial and logistical resources at their disposal. Every school in the country has run at least a handful of potential scenarios based on how many students it can have on campus. Why the heck didn’t the B1G have anything similar in place when it became the first Power 5 league to pull the plug on fall football?
How does this work with recruiting? Will coaches be able to accumulate talent while coaching an actual season? What do you do with early-enrollees who normally spend the spring prepping for big-time college football?
Playing the fall 2020 season in the spring alleviates some eligibility headaches. But seeing as they’re already losing tens of millions, can athletic departments absorb increased costs for scholarships, lodging food and all the other amenities that come with big-time college football crunched into one calendar year? What happens if this player unionization movement gathers steam between now and then, to boot?
Does decreased practice contact stunt younger players’ long-term development? Maybe teams could have separate workouts and/or guidelines for players who are redshirting.
Is 8 consecutive weeks of B1G football too tough? After storms in Lincoln canceled its 2018 season opener, Nebraska played 12 games in a row. But it didn’t turn around and play another season till the following autumn.
Is 3 months of a break enough? Maybe, finally, the conference can come together and answer some of these tough questions. Get a committee with coaches, strength and conditioning staff, players, ADs and college brass and figure this out now while there’s some semblance of time.
If the Brohm Plan is too aggressive, pare it down to, say, 6 games in the spring and 8 in the fall. This reduces potential risk for injury and provides flexibility around potential COVID-related issues.
Oh, yeah. That darned virus.
Brohm’s plan presupposes, in writing, the potential for a vaccine and “greater knowledge on how to prevent, treat and handle (COVID-19),” including learnings from professional leagues and more “time to prepare and get ready for a smooth and efficient process for care and prevention.”
Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and likely others would likely tell you they’ve already had that in place for months.
According to the Guardian, seven groups of researches are in the last phase of vaccine testing before one could be approved. This stage involves thousands of tests.
Better and faster testing is coming, but contract tracing remains difficult.
We know by now with this coronavirus, there are no guarantees and no such thing as 100% accuracy. But as every business, school, family and institution navigating it have learned, it’s better to have a plan, then a Plan B, and then the creativity to come up with Plan C, and so on.
The B1G hasn’t done that yet. At least one of its coaches is providing a big step in the right direction.