Stuart McNair

Rules change proposals for 2017 college football season address safety

Targeting rule will remain unchanged for 2017, and cover those knees

This is a “non-rule change year” for NCAA football, but the exception is the ability to make changes for player safety. As such, the NCAA Rules Committee recommended three rules changes at its annual meeting in Indianapolis. They are:

• Prohibiting defensive players from leaping over or hurdling the offensive line in an attempt to block field goal or extra point attempts. The current rule penalizes the tactic only if the defensive player lands on an offensive player.

• Adding the nameplate area of the jersey to the current horse-collar tackle rule, which pertains to tackling by the back of the shoulder pads.

• Require players to wear knee pads and pants that cover the knees. This once was the rule, but now is only “strongly recommended.”

There has been discussion of the targeting rule being adjusted, particularly as to the ejection aspect of the penalty. The rules committee discussed the issue, but elected to leave the rule unchanged for 2017.

All proposals must be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which meets April 19. If approved, the changes would go into effect for the upcoming season.

Additionally, the committee was involved in a collaborative session with the newly formed Division I Football Competition Committee and the National Football League to discuss the problem of increased length of games. The committee focused on administrative matters that do not impact the playing rules, which are used by all NCAA divisions.

To the surprise of no one, representatives of television – most would agree stoppages for television commercials are prominent in the problem – were involved in the collaboration. So what did they come up with?

Well, they don’t want coaches going onto the field to protest officiating decisions. To that end, the committee developed a document explaining the rules and that document will be sent to coaches and officials.

They also want to make sure that halftime lasts no more than 20 minutes.

And, finally, when a runner goes out of bounds, stopping the clock, the clock will begin as soon as the ball is spotted.

(How about this idea? TV can’t stop the game in order to plug other shows, including upcoming NFL games, “great new” comedies, etc.)

The committee extended two experimental rules for another season, including allowing the practice of a centralized replay panel to collaborate with the on-site replay officials. Also, the Ivy League’s experiment of kicking off from the 40-yard line (rather than the 35) and touchbacks spotted at the 20 will be continued.

The committee plans to launch a more detailed survey to the football community that focuses on two areas: blocking below the waist and ineligible receivers downfield. The committee is encouraging discussion on those topics during conference spring meetings. 


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