ACC Head Official Doug Rhoads Talks to Media

Head of ACC officials Doug Rhoads hosted a session at the ACC Media Days this morning and GoJackets.com was present. Rhoads spent the session explaining rule changes and also helped clarify rules that have been the source of confusion.

Here are the highlights of his talk:

The ACC has 10 crews of 7 officials each plus 3 alternates (accommodates conflicts of interest). They have a strong conflict of interest policy and that is what they use the alternates for. The ACC will be adding 1 new crew for next year to accommodate Pitt and Syracuse. There will be a net addition for his crew of about 9-10 games. 2 officials were removed following last year plus 1 other retired. And, the 3 new guys are all from Big East. The main feeder of our officials is Southern Conference, MEAC, ODAC, Big East, and Big South.

To be considered as a football game official, the applicant must have 5 years high school officiating experience plus 5 years college officiating experience. The ACC accepts application in Jan and Feb. They then evaluate in spring games/scrimmages as to who they will take.

The referees are subject to a rating system is completely based on video. Each week the replay official reviews all game tape and calls. By Thursday each week, he will have graded the fouls. That rating system is then used for post-season assignments as well as retention for the next year.

They did look at over 14,000 plays last year and after analysis, Rhoads feels there was about 80 plays that were debatable and that they got about 40 of them wrong.

Rule Changes/Clarifications

Helmet rule: If your helmet comes off, you must stop participating in the play immediately. If you continue to participate, it is a 15 yard penaly. Also, you will have to come out for 1 play. The exception to coming out is that you do not have to come out if your helmet comes off due to a foul, then you do not have to come out for a play. Also, once the helmet comes off during a play, the player cannot put the helmet back on and continue. Rhoads did make a point that the rule was asked for by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and adopted by the NCAA – no officials on those committees (you can tell Rhoads isn't a big fan of this particular rule).

Leap and land rule (applies to punt blockers and defenders): When rushing the punter and you get in to the backfield, you cannot leap and land on a blocker in the backfield – must leap in to a gap and or leap straight up to attempt to block it. Side note of relevance to Georgia Tech fans: If any of you have watched Darren Waller on special teams, he has done this a lot in the past.

Changes on Kickoffs: Kickoffs will be on the 35 instead of the 30. All members of the kickoff team must start within 5 yards of the ball when the kicker starts his forward motion. The only exception to that is the kicker – he can be as far back as he wants. For a touchback on a kickoff, the ball is spotted on the 25. For all other touchbacks, the ball will be spotted at the 20.

On a scoop kick (also known as a pooch kick), all members of the receiving team can fair catch. On the onside kick where the kicker drives the ball in the ground (and hits the ground only once) and causes a high bounce, the receiving team can also fair catch that. Remember that on a fair catch, the defenders cannot touch the receiver. If the ball is squibbed or hits the ground as a dribbler, then things would be like they are in the past. Basically, once the ball hits the ground twice that is when things are as they have been. This will make on-sides kicks significantly tougher to execute.

Next, a defender on a punt returner must give the returner at least 1 yard to catch the ball. This is not a return to the old halo rule that previously existed. But, it is similar and will help protect the punt returner on catches. If you are a lineman and off of the ball by at least 7 yards, you cannot block below the waist towards the ball. You can block north-south as well as towards the adjacent sideline but not towards the ball. If you are back inside the tackle box, you can block below the waist in any direction. If you are outside the tackle box, you cannot block below the waist towards the ball. As above, you can block north-south or towards your own sideline.


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