Rules of the Game - Part 1

Dr. Ron North, a retired physician and former official weighs in on the rule changes in 2012 for college football.

Several years ago the NCAA football rules committee agreed there were not enough yearly rule changes to merit publishing a new rules book each year.  It was agreed that on odd years, an official "new" book would come out.  However, on "non-publishing" even years, changes may be made and implemented immediately because they directly impact student-athlete safety.  Here are some of those "even" year changes for the 2012 NCAA college football season, as approved by the Football Rules Committee. 


FREE KICKS (Kick-off)

It has been shown that the highest number of injuries occur on Kick-off plays.  The committee has chosen to encourage touchbacks instead of runbacks.  First, the kickoff restraining line from whence the ball is kicked will be moved to the 35 yd/line (unless relocated by penalty), instead of the 30 yd/line. This will allow more kicks into or out of the end zone.  Next all members of the kicking team (except the kicker or holder) must be within 5 yards of the restraining line once the ball is made ready for play. This will slow the full speed charge of players when the ball is kicked. Penalty is 5 yards from the kickoff yard line, and re-kick; or 5 yards added to the spot where the dead ball belongs to the receiving team.

Also, to encourage the receiver to down the ball for a touchback when caught in the end zone, the line where the receiving team puts the ball in play after a "kick-off" touchback will be moved to the 25 yd/line. All other touchbacks remain in play at the 20 yd/line.     

Example:   A (a) kickoff or (b) punt is received in the end zone, and the receiver immediately goes to one knee. Ruling:  In both instances it is a touchback.  In (a) the ball will be placed at the 25 yd/line, first and 10;   in (b) the new series starts at the 20yd/line.



The current rule related to kick-off receptions states the kick-catch and fair-catch protection ceases when the ball hits the ground. Kickers have learned to drive the ball into the ground, allowing it to bounce high into the air with no receiver kick-catch protection present. The rules committee has now added kick-catch and fair-catch protection whether the ball is kicked directly off the tee or is immediately driven to the ground, strikes the ground once, and goes into the air in a manner of the ball kicked directly off the tee.

In either case, before the receiver touches the ball, the kicking team must not enter an area defined by the width of the receiver's shoulders and extending one yard in front of him.  (Not quite resorting to the old "halo", but close.)  If so, it is a foul for kick-catch interference.



In an attempt to decrease the number of knee injuries, blocking below the waist has been under intense scrutiny the last few seasons. The latest modifications include no offensive blocking below the waist back toward one's goal line once past the neutral zone. Offensive players not in motion who at the snap are in the tackle zone are free to block below the waist until the tackle box is gone.  Other rules placed into effect the last few years are also still in effect limiting blocking below the waist (rule 9-1-6).


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