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Josh Heupel Comments on Injury Faking Fix Necessity

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Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel was vocal throughout his first season in Knoxville regarding faking injuries on the football field. While this isn’t a problem that is strictly based around Tennessee’s opponents, it is a problem that Tennessee had to go against on at least three different occasions: Ole Miss, Kentucky, and Purdue. And in the last two instances, Heupel even made his voice heard on the issue immediately following each game.

As the NCAA continues to work on a solution to the situation, Heupel made a brief comment about the issue on Tuesday. And while the comment wasn’t very long, it was impactful.

WBIR sports reporter David Schiele shared the quote from Heupel at the Rotary Club of Knoxville on Tuesday via Twitter.

“You have to do something to ensure the integrity of the game,” Heupel said at the meeting.

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On Jan. 31, Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic reported that the NCAA’s rules committee would be prioritizing a solution to effectively prevent the use of fake injuries during critical situations on the football field. According to Auerbach’s report, the declarative statement came directly from the National Director of Officials Steve Shaw.

“Obviously, we want to take feigning injuries out of the game,” Shaw said in the report from The Athletic. “It’s a bad look for the game. It’s an integrity issue. If you have a feigned injury, it garners an unmerited timeout for your team. We’re really looking at: What’s the next step to move away from that?”

The examples of this issue are still fresh in the minds of Tennessee football fans across the country, as well as the Vols head coach. The first major instance that came to light was during the Ole Miss game when the Vols were attempting to take the lead on the final drive/set-up of the game.

However, in the Vols next two meetings with the fake-injury bug against Kentucky and Purdue, Heupel directly addressed the issue after each game.

“At times, I think people do that,” Heupel said after the Kentucky game about faking injuries to gather time. “In this football game we moved the ball with tempo. And guys end up finding a way to go down and allowing substitutions to happen or just change the momentum of the football game.”

In addition, after the Music City Bowl against Purdue, Heupel even spoke of a “comical” interaction he had with the referees.

“Yeah, you know what’s crazy is the officials wanted that tonight,” Heupel said regarding a potential rule change for injured players. “I thought that was pretty comical that they came up and said that to me.”

Heupel went on to shed some more light on the statement.

“Yeah, they think there should be a rule change,” Josh Heupel said while speaking about the referees.

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Teams consistently found an advantage in 2021 using the fake-injury method, something that is a loophole within the confines of the NCAA rulebook. This is why it’s hard to blame any team that was using that strategy to their advantage. And this is also why it is vital that the NCAA correct this evolutionary change to the sport. Right now, teams are finding a loophole in the system to give themselves an unfair advantage on the field that the game did not originally intend for them to have.

And no, that’s not just complaining about the times when it happened to Tennessee. In reality, Tennessee’s defense used that method in certain moments this season, just like most college football teams around the country. Once it snowballed into a large enough concept to be talked about on weekly sports programming, teams started to figure out what they could and couldn’t get away with.

Ultimately, Josh Heupel is exactly right, and the integrity of the game is at stake here. While yes, abiding by more new-school rules would be beneficial to Tennessee due to the way the Vols run their offense, it’s about the countless other games happening across the weekend that don’t involve Tennessee as well. Offenses are getting better and better at a rapid rate in the sport of football. It’s time to force the defenses to catch up physically rather than using a loophole in the system.

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