Pennsylvania has never had a spring football practice period, largely because it seemed that any attempt to break through the PIAA Board of Directors’ crust would be futile.

But maybe that will change now.

Joe Paterno and Dave Wannstedt are completely on board the Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association’s growing effort to add spring football to the list of approved PIAA activities. And that might be just the push the coaches need to get spring football on the table.

Paterno and Wannstedt spoke with a small cluster of media following a meeting with the PSFCA’s executive board Wednesday at Penn State’s Lasch Building and left no doubt where they stand on spring football in Pennsylvania.

“Oh, absolutely,” Paterno said in response to a question regarding his support for spring football practice. “My feeling is anything we can do to help the high school coaches (in Pennsylvania), we’ll do.”

Wannstedt, who was a high school coach in Florida several years ago, noted that Florida has permitted spring drills for quite some time and said those players are farther ahead than players without spring practice.

“We all know what kind of repetitions it takes to become a good football player,” Wannstedt said. “But it goes to the other things that Coach Paterno mentioned: The discipline, the pride, the camaraderie.”

Wannstedt also pointed out that if a spring practice is held in may when the college coaches are on the road recruiting, they have a much better opportunity to evaluate recruits.

“This has nothing to do with helping Penn State ot Pitt,” Paterno said. “We’ll get our players. It’s about making pennsylvania high school football improve.”

Currently, there is no proposal in front of the PIAA to add spring football the roster of permissible activities. Red Land head coach Frank Gay, a member of PSFCA’s executive board, said the coaches association will discuss the matter when they meet before next month’s Big 33 game and try to have a proposal ready when the PIAA Board meets in October.

“There’s been a lot of talk, now we’re trying to put some action behind,” Gay said. “We have the support now from these guys (Paterno and Wannstedt).”

It will be an uphill climb even with the backing of Paterno, Wannstedt and Temple’s Al Golden, who also supports the idea but was unable to make Wednesday’s meeting. Only recently did the PIAA Board, which has always been cool (in same cases, outright hostile) to the concept of spring football, permit football players to use shoulder pads at off-season camps and clinics. Pennsylvania still bans participation in so-called “contact camps” that have become increasingly popular.

And the PIAA Board has always blanched at the idea that spring sports might lose athletes to spring practice, which PSFCA sees running in a two-week period in mid-May after regular-season baseball and track have ended.

“I can only speak to my experience in Florida,” Wannstedt said. “But if a kid ran track, he ran track. You understood that, and if that meant you didn’t have a player at (spring) practice, you didn’t have him.”

PSFCA president Mark Capuano, the head coach at Moon High School in western Pennsylvania, said the organization overwhelmingly favors the implementation of spring football.

In addition to announcing their support for a spring football practice period, Paterno and Wannstedt also committed resources and coaches to an annual PSFCA clinic to be held every February after letter of intent day. The clinic will be for coaches only and will likely rotate between Penn State, Pitt and Temple.

“That’s clinic time for us,” said Fran Ganter, Penn State’s Associate Athletic Director for Football Administration. “What we’re doing with the commitment is if the clinic needs three coaches from Temple, they’ve got it. If they need four from Penn State, they’ve got it.”

In recent years, the PSFCA’s annual clinic in Hershey had dwindled in the number of coaches in attendance, making schools more reluctant to send staffers to speak. The new commitment by PSFCA to have a top-flight commitment encouraged Paterno and Wannstedt to endorse the idea.

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