By Carlyle Rickenmann
Special to The Tuscaloosa News

ATLANTA – Football does matter. That is the message of the National Football Foundation with its Football Matters initiative.

The new five-year grassroots campaign focuses on educating players, parents and fans on the benefits and importance of the game. The hope is to become the “unifying force for college football,” said Matthew Sign, chief operating officer of the NFF.

With mounting medical evidence linking football and head injuries, NFF Executive Director Steve Hatchell wants this initiative to provide facts and research for anyone with concerns. Football Matters has a committee of doctors and researchers to answer questions about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) because “it’s not all black and white,” Hatchell said.

“The steering committee of Football Matters is made of stakeholders in the game: doctors, leaders and key people to advise us where to go in this game,” Hatchell said. “We have always been here to protect the game and the good of the game.”

Sign said college football is growing, with 778 institutions across all divisions fielding teams.

“Not everyone is trying to get to the NFL,” Hatchell said. “We have thousands of guys … that played college football and are now governors, lawyers, dentists, good husbands and teachers who said this game meant a lot to them.”

This initiative will go beyond the collegiate level. Football Matters has chapters in 47 states that work with more than 5,000 high schools “to get to parents and show it’s OK to play football,” Hatchell said. The chapters discuss concussion protocol, equipment rules, heat protocol and injury protocol to ensure player safety.

Football Matters plans to reach its audience through public service announcements, social networking and a 24/7 newsroom.

“You will see Football Matters on all platforms and at all conferences,” Hatchell said.