The Pac-12, however, made a considerable effort this offseason to improve their officiating, and commissioner Larry Scott should be applauded for that. The Pac-12 gave 11 officials their walking papers, confirming to every Pac-10 fan the past several years who has been driven into therapy that yes, there was some incompetent officiating going on for years in the old Pac-10.
The conference brought in 18 new officials, mostly from the Big 12, WAC and Mountain West, as well as some who worked smaller conference games, plus two new supervisors with NFL backgrounds. But they'll have their hands full with new NCAA rules this season.
Among them, trying to take away the crackback block, a 10-second runoff on late-half penalties and excessive celebration/taunting.
The last one is a doozy. Previously, if a player was deemed to have acted demonstratively or in a taunting way before crossing the goal-line, it was 15-yards on the ensuing extra point or kickoff. Now, it's a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the foul and the score comes off the board. That brings up a whole bunch of potential problems.
Will some officials call it tighter than others? Will the most mild of actions draw a flag? Will it be enforced the same way in the first quarter as it is on the final drive of the game?
How long before someone actually loses a game because of it?
There is some hope that the Pac-12 will not go overboard on this one. Tony Corrente, the Pac-12's new coordinator of officials, has instructed officials not to be overly technical in applying rule 9.2.1 , and to allow for a brief, spontaneous reaction.
But ultimately, it would appear it's only a matter of time before a call is made that will have the fans up in arms. Rule 9-2-1d offers, as an example of a violation, bowing at the waist after a good play. Spontaneously raising your arms might be okay, but do not even think about a quick bow, because that's really offensive behavior.
What if the illegal act happens after crossing the goal line? It's still 15-yards on the ensuing extra point or kickoff. Same exact action, but a moment or two later, and the penalty is significantly less severe. Try wrapping your head around that one.
The blocking rule change seems destined to confuse fans, and players and coaches likely won't be on the same page on some of the calls either.
Players will be flagged for blocking below the waste outside the tackle box –but with certain exceptions based on where the player performing the block initially lined up, if he's pointed straight ahead or if the block occurs towards the near sideline. It could therefore vary wildly depending on scheme and alignment, leading to the impression the penalty isn't being applied consistently.
In the final minute of each half, 10 seconds can be run off following a penalty. A team can avoid that if they have a timeout remaining. The beneficiary can also decline the flag and/or runoff.
Isn't the penalty in itself enough? Why try to decrease further the possibility of a compelling, fantastic finish?
What would you rather see – two players leaping high into the end zone for a pass with the whole damned game on the line as zeros fall on the clock, or an official making the announcement that with eight seconds left, never mind, the game is over?
The rules committee in recent years has seemed obsessed with making the game more penal, and to hurry it along. But don't we all want more college football, not less?
William Sherman is a 1991 graduate of Washington State and attends as many home and away Cougar games as his schedule allows.
Take a bow? Not on my watch, mister
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