Austin, Texas sits at just 489 feet above sea level. LaVell Edwards Stadium boasts 4,630 feet above sea level. Unless Darrel K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium sits precariously on a mountain 4,000 feet high in the middle of the city, the Longhorns can be expected to suffer physically from the lack of oxygen in the air.
Or will they?
According to a report released by ESPN yesterday, the Longhorns have been practicing with elevation training masks throughout their workouts this summer to prepare just for Provo.
Texas's Elevation Masks
These masks look like they could be used by pilots in fighter jets, only lighter, more comfortable, and easier to manage without the long hose. For pictures, visit here.
The masks are made of silicone and they work by simply reducing the amount of air available to the mouth and nose. Coaches then put their players through normal training exercises to teach their bodies to perform at the same level, with less air.
Companies that produce masks like these boast that with them on, you can spend less time on a workout (a third of the normal time) and get better endurance at sea level play at the same time.
And that makes sense. Runners, football players, and other athletes from the Provo area alike enjoy heading down to the coasts. There's more air to breathe down there, increasing their ability to perform athletically. Why wouldn't practicing with these masks have the same effect?
Who's Big Idea Was This?
It was Bennie Wylie's idea. He's the strength and conditioning coach. He was given the simple instructions to "Have 'em ready for altitude," from head coach Mack Brown. Bennie thought on it, found the masks, and got a sheepish grin on his face as he made the order. He believed in the masks and now the players do too.
Will Elevation be a Problem Now?
According to Jordan Hicks, a linebacker for the Longhorns, "we don't expect it to. We're playing two-deep at every position. I think that gives us an advantage."
Guess we'll find out how true Jordan's predictions are when they make that 4,000 foot climb to LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo this weekend.
Just a reminder that the game will be at 5 pm MDT. If you can't make it to the game, look for it on ESPN 2. You can also look to KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, BYU Radio - Sirius XM 143, or the Cougar IMG Sports Network for the game.