A few hits, some big misses in rules changes

CASEY LOCKER AND other big hitters on the Cougs have been put on notice. Because if it's the offseason, then it must mean the NCAA is making rules changes to the game of college football -- an area where they've put the "F" in fail over the years. The NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Panel has the right idea when it comes to targeting and player safety. But their execution falls well short.

The panel in recent days approved a rule where the on-field officials automatically eject players who target and contact defenseless players above the shoulders, in addition to the 15-yard penalty. If it's in the first half, he's done for the day. If the foul occurs in the second half, he's done for the rest of the game and misses the first half of next week.

I don't have a problem with a player being ejected for illegal helmet-to-helmet contact. Indeed, I advocated it back in December. The problem is that last season, scores of times a player was flagged when the contact was not above the shoulders. Other times, at full speed and where a collision was imminent, the player who got hit ducked his head into the oncoming defensive player's helmet. And you can't flag the defender for that. Except of course, they do.


The game has simply gotten too fast for an official on the field to make this call, accurately and consistently, in real time. The call needs to be made by the replay booth. Now, the new rule says replay "can" review and overturn, if there is clear and conclusive evidence an error was made.

The new rule should say it "must" be reviewed.

Better yet, the official makes the call, announces the 15-yard penalty and that the play is under review. The booth reviews it and either the call is upheld and it is announced the player is ejected, or the call is overturned and there's no 15-yard penalty, no ejection.

And another big miss here is when it's the offensive player using his helmet as a battering ram. A fast-growing trend last season saw running backs, and some tight ends, clearly and deliberately lead with their helmet into a defender's helmet, especially when out in open space. By not addressing that part of the issue at all in their rule change, the panel has effectively said the health of a defensive player doesn't matter as much to them as it does an offensive player.

The new ejection rule mirrors the rule for fighting. But it's a heckuva lot easier to see a guy throwing a punch/fighting than it is to determine above the shoulder contact at real speed. With legal, below the shoulder contact, the offensive player's head often snaps back. And even though it's a legal hit, a flag is sure to follow.

Other rule changes adopted by the panel:
• Blocks below the waste will be allowed at the line by stationary players in typical line play.

The third rules change in as many years in this area. What it basically boils down to is a block below the waist that occurs in front of a defender is legal, all other blocks below the waist are not. So, great. By all means, let's keep encouraging players to go after another player's knees. We just don't have enough season- and career-ending knee injuries each season.

• Teams are allowed to have the same color uniform as their field, (such as Boise State.) Jerseys must have clearly visible, permanent Arabic numerals at least 8 and 10 inches in height front and back, respectively, and be one solid color that is clearly in distinct contrast with the color of the jersey.

An advantage for Boise State, who like to wear their blue unis against their blue field. Not a good decision, but not nearly as egregious as some others this year.

• A 10-second runoff of the clock will happen with less than a minute remaining in either half when the sole reason for the clock stoppage is because of injury.

What. Why does the NCAA year after year continue to make rule changes that diminish the possibility of fantastic finishes? This won't prevent defenses faking injuries but there will be teams that lose games and the opportunity to score in the waning seconds because of this rule.

• There must be three seconds on the clock to spike the ball. If less remain on the clock, there is only time for the offense to run one more play.

Again. Why does the NCAA want to suck all the drama out of a game in the final seconds? And if you're trailing by three or less, and a play moves you into field goal range with less than three seconds, the rule doesn't allow you to spike the ball and get your field goal kicker onto the field? You have to instead go for a Hail Mary instead of a field goal? What in the blue hell is that all about?

• A player who changes numbers during the game must report this to the referee, who will announce it.


• Multiple players from the same team can not wear the same uniform number.


• Electronic communication by the on-field officiating crew is allowed.

Good. (Unless of course they instead use their electronic device to play Words with Friends and get on Twitter. We are, after all, talking about Pac-12 officiating crews here.)

• Instant replay can adjust the clock at the end of each quarter. Previously, this provision was in place only for the end of each half.


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