It has long been a running joke among college football coaches: If you want an update on a team's progress during the summer, don't ask the head coach. Ask the strength and conditioning coach.

"Basically," Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre said, "you couldn't be around (players) at all."

For years, the interaction between on-field coaches and their players was all but nonexistent between the conclusion of spring practice and the beginning of August camp, leaving the strength and conditioning staff members as the lone observers of player workouts during the summer.

That has changed. A new NCAA rule gives on-field coaches eight hours per week to interact with players, with up to two of those hours available for football-related meetings or film review — provided those players are enrolled in summer school or meet a minimum grade-point average requirement.

The reaction of coaches: It's about time.

"The whole thing about college athletics," MacIntyre said, "is that, yeah, you're a football coach, but you're also a mentor of young men. This gives us more time around them. It's a less stressful time than it is during the season. There is a little bit more time where you can get to know a kid as a person and that type of thing."

The Buffaloes, searching for their first winning season since 2005, will make the most of the time allotted. Through most of June, CU has had two 30-minute sessions of film review per week, leaving seven hours for strength and conditioning. As training camp nears, MacIntyre said the Buffs will use the entire two hours to get a head start on installing schemes for training camp.

"That way it's not all thrown at them in the first week," he said.

While some coaches will schedule the time in different ways, Colorado State's Jim McElwain said the new rule isn't designed to put more of a burden on players. Summer has long been a time for building strength, he said, and that won't change just because rules have.

There might just be a few extra voices in the weight room.

"I think it's invaluable more so just to get around them, not to make it a grind," said McElwain, who is entering his third season at CSU. "Look, I'm of the belief that guys need time off. Coaches need time off. Otherwise you're not going to be fresh. It's pretty regimented how we do our offseason program. It's kind of like, if something's not broke, don't fix it. We'll get enough interaction with them."

Football coaches had been pushing for summertime involvement with their players since a similar change was made for college basketball programs in 2012. Two of the eight hours that basketball coaches can spend with their players can be used for on-court skill instruction.

Like MacIntyre, Tad Boyle appreciates the impact an earlier start can have on new players.

"The real benefit comes from being able to work with your freshmen," the CU men's basketball coach said. "They get to know your system and your terminology. You get to know them on the floor."

Getting them into a classroom is a key part of the rule. When the NCAA announced the change for football programs last December, the governing body said a correlation between early enrollment and academic success was a major reason for the change. With increased pressure on coaches to raise academic-progress rate scores, MacIntyre said he welcomes any opportunity to help his players get their feet under them, on the field and off.

As for the progress MacIntyre has seen from his team entering his second season — now that he's actually able to base the answer based on his own observations?

"I think we're maturing as a team both physically and mentally," he said. "We've had guys that had some surgeries who are looking good. You get to see the progress of all that. I think that helps you get a better feel for your football team as you head into camp, no doubt."

Nick Kosmider: 303-954-1516 or nkosmider@denverpost.com