FRISCO, Texas — Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin disputed the notion expressed by North Carolina coach Larry Fedora that football is “under attack” and said he’s supportive of the changes being made to the game to make it safer.
“I am, definitely,” Kiffin said Thursday while at Conference USA media days. “Because you see these long-term issues with these older NFL players.
“What’s the most important thing? Long-term health, or how the game looks?”
Wednesday, Fedora drew heat for doubting the connections between football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
“I’m not sure that anything is proven that football, itself, causes [CTE],” Fedora said. “My understanding is that repeated blows to the head cause it, so I’m assuming that every sport we have, football included, could be a problem with that as long as you’ve got any kind of contact.”
Fedora added that football was under attack to the point “the game will be pushed so far from what we know that. … we won’t recognize it in 10 years.”
On Thursday, coaches from across college football questioned the comments.
Kiffin called it “accurate” that the game is changing. But with a son starting tackle football next month, Kiffin said he hopes the evolution of football will help counter the problems with CTE.
“I think the changes in the game that will continue to come are going to help people’s concerns,” he said.
Still, with concussions plaguing football, Kiffin said he was surprised that Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray elected to play football for the Sooners this season, despite being selected ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics in last month’s MLB draft. Florida Atlantic opens the season at Oklahoma on Sept. 1. Murray is expected to start for the Sooners before moving forward with the A’s and his baseball career.
“He should change his mind and go to baseball,” Kiffin said, initially joking before expounding more seriously. “I didn’t realize he would go that high. It’s crazy that he doesn’t go play (baseball) this year. Think of all the concussion issues that are out there with college football and the NFL. He should go play baseball.”
South Carolina coach Will Muschamp, speaking at SEC media days on Thursday, denied Fedora’s claims that football is under attack.
“I don’t think our game is under attack. I don’t know a lot about Larry (Fedora’s) comments,” Muschamp said. “As far as CTE, concussions, I feel very comfortable with the policies and the procedures we have. The No. 1 point of all of this is the health of our student-athletes.”
ACC commissioner John Swofford said “we have to respect the science” when it comes to the connection between football and CTE. In an interview with The Associated Press, Swofford said “football’s not alone” in concerns over concussions in sports. But he said “football by its very nature is going to be looked at first.”
Swofford said it’s important to be willing to consider adjustments to improve player safety, whether it deals with rules, practice or equipment. He said: “If we’re not looking at it that way, I think we’ve got our heads in the sand.”
ESPN’s Alex Scarborough and The Associated Press contributed to this story.