MIDVALE — The start of the high school football season just got a little earlier.
The Utah High School Activities Association's Executive Committee voted unanimously to move the official start date from the first week of August to July 29 during its Wednesday meeting.
Last year, football coaches were asked to help their players acclimiate gradually to playing in full pads in the summer heat. All of the state's football coaches were required to do this, and many chose to do it with optional workouts that actually preceded the season's official start date. That way, when the season officially started, teams could begin with pads.
The executive committee members discussed the issue and noted that because those summer workouts were not mandatory, coaches were dealing with a catch-22. They couldn't require students to attend the workouts, which actually might help them deal better with the heat that always accompanies the early season practices and games.
"It's hard to say we're about acclimatization, when it's not mandatory," said Juab principal Rick Robbins, who suggested it was problematic to require teams to acclimate to the heat, but not require players to participate.
Associate director Kevin Dustin, who oversees football for the association, agreed.
"I think it's calling a spade a spade," he said.
Coaches had not yet been made aware of the change, but those contacted by the Deseret News said it wouldn't change much in the way they prepare for the season.
"For us, it won't change a thing we do," said Bingham head coach Dave Peck, who schedules his summer camp in July so that student athletes are already used to playing football in high temperatures. "We're already getting them in shape. We go at 3 p.m. everyday from July 15th on. The best timber is grown in the harshest conditions."
Highland head coach Brody Benson said he also holds his summer camp as close to the start of the season as possible. He said the new start date will just make it easier to make sure all student athletes participate in the heat acclimation program.
"It was tough because a lot of kids had (other commitments) and you can't require it," Benson said. "But if they missed days, you had to make it up. So it makes my job a little bit easier."
The committee also voted to study whether or not to change or eliminate deadtime and add certified umpires to all state tennis tournaments.