Alabama Provides Apple Watches to Players, Leading to Questions From Other Schools

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Alabama football players were provided Apple Watches if they previously did not have them before leaving the school's campus amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to The Athletic, the watches are "being utilized to monitor the health of their players, gauging the sleep patterns and heart spikes of each player, no different from a Fitbit," and not to oversee workouts or provide workout instruction. 

Head coach Nick Saban first mentioned the use of Apple Watches Thursday afternoon during a conference call with reporters. 

“They were very instrumental in setting up this whole program of what we’re doing with the players in terms of Apple Watches for their workouts, apps on their phones for weight training programs,” Saban said, referring to his strength and conditioning coaches. “We had an issue with some players not having a place to work out because high schools are closed. We put them on band workout programs. They’ve done a really, really good job of managing this to this point, and the players have done a really good job responding to it.”

The Athletic notes that Alabama's use of Apple Watches has led to questions from a number of other football officials from around the country. 

“I have no stinking clue how they’re doing that," one Power 5 director of football operations told The Athletic, regarding the legality of Alabama's giveaway. 

“The one thing that has me and other coaches in the Big 12 a little bit upset and a little bit confused is the ability to send your players workout equipment and tracking devices, things of that nature,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said Monday. “Because they’ve really restricted that moving forward, yet other conferences have had two weeks of shipping this stuff out to their players."

To sit there and say we’re gonna monitor them through a Fitbit or something like that, we’re not gonna go down that road,” Ohio State's Ryan Day said last week. “There are too many things that are a little dangerous in terms of the CARA hours. We give them things to do. We give them guidelines. We think the leaders of the position groups will do a great job of talking it through and making sure our guys come back in at least close to the shape they were in when they left."

Alabama senior associate AD for compliance Matt Self made clear to The Athletic that the conference is aware that the school provided Apple Watches to some of its players. 

“We are in constant communication with the SEC discussing the appropriate manner in which to utilize these and any other resources to provide for the health and well-being of our student-athletes during this crisis," Self said in a statement to The Athletic. 

As a result of the NCAA canceling all winter and spring championships for 2020 and some conferences canceling all athletic related activities through the end of the 2019-20 academic year, schools around the country have had to figure out how to keep their players in shape.

Among other methods, schools have also recommend players lift backpacks stuffed with books, duffle bags filled with sand and water jugs as possible household exercises.