Changes in Football Rules Frown on Deception

No, Bobby Gaston, the director of Southeastern Conference officials, isn't instituting ANOTHER Phil Fulmer rule. But something that happened in last year's Alabama-Tennessee game will be under the auspices of a new rule this year. That was part of the discussion on the second day of SEC Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel in suburban Birmingham Wedneday.

Gaston said the biggest rules change will be in substitution. As an example, a play where a team rushes off the sideline to the line of scrimmage, without a huddle to quickly snap the ball, will be illegal this year. Alabama did this in the fourth quarter against Tennessee last year, sending its offense onto the field for a fourth down play, then quickly rushing the punt team out to catch the Vols off-guard.

In a case like this in 2004, the umpire will stand over the ball, giving the defense a chance to react to the personnel put on the field by the offense. Additionally, if the 25-second play clock expires while the umpire is standing over the ball, a delay-of-game penalty will be assessed against the offense. Continued attempts to deceive the defense using quick substitutions will result in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

The annual appearance of Gaston brought some relief from the continued interest in the anticipated absence of Tennessee Coach Phil Fulmer from the proceedings, although most of the day was spent listening to coaches and players who showed up for the event. Fulmer's activities have been the focus of the past two SEC gatherings. The presidents of the SEC voted to implement a procedure for reporting suspected wrong-doing by another member institution, dubbed the Phillip Fulmer Rule at that spring meeting in Destin, Florida. At that same meeting the presidents voted an automatic $10,000 fine against any institution whose head coach failed to attend any SEC event. Tennessee becomes the first victim of that rule.

Gaston also detailed the process for instant replay that will be used in the Big Ten this season. A "technical advisor" will be stationed in a booth with a television equipped with TIVO and one or two assistants. If he sees a play that is questionable, he must radio to the sidelines to stop play before the next snap of the ball. "(Southeastern Conference) coaches have shown no desire to have instant replay," Gaston said. "I think there could be an explosive situation if you overturn something and three or four minutes later they show another angle that proves it shouldn't have been overturned."

Other changes:

Officials, when they are equipped with a microphone, will announce the number of the player committing a penalty. Gaston noted that this will help in grading the videotapes; instead of having to search for the man called for holding, it will be a matter of just checking to see if the man announced as holding was, indeed, guilty of holding.

Gaston also said that roughing the passer would not be called when a defensive player is blocked into the quarterback. Roughing the passer will still be called if the defensive player lowers his head or tries in any way to add emphasis to the contact with the quarterback.

Gaston lauded LSU Coach Nick Saban for his participation on the NCAA rules committee and for being a strong advocate of sportsmanship. "He is well respected and his thoughts are well received by everyone," Gaston said. He also discussed Kellen Winslow's behavior in the Tennessee-Miami game last year. Winslow lashed out at the SEC officiating crew after the game, saying "I hate the refs."

"What we were trying to do is preventative officiating, because if we would have called it like we normally do, he would have been out of the game in the middle of the first quarter," Gaston said.

"We've got too many people out there trying to call attention to themselves, when in the good ol' days a coach would jerk a guy out of a game."

The head coach in a game will be able to call a timeout from the sideline during a game, but will not be able to designate anyone else on the sideline to call a timeout.

When a kick-off squad is offsides, the returning team will have the option of adding five yards to the end of the return, instead of having a re-kick from five yards back of the original spot.

On field goals and extra points, a penalty will be called when a defensive player lands on an opponent while running forward and jumping up in attempt to block a kick.

Check back later for more news and notes from SEC Media Days.

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