The Big 12's Coordinator of Officials Walt Anderson Offers Insights As To How Games Will Be Called This Season

Big 12 Coordinator of Officials Walt Anderson went over a series of rule changes and tweaks for the upcoming season. Here are the highlights.

First, Anderson noted that the hit by West Virginia safety Karl Joseph on Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook last season was targeting, and should have been called. The hit led to a rule change this year where replay officials can stop the game to review a targeting call not flagged on the field. Anderson said the Big 12 had just eight targeting calls, of which four were reversed to no call. That was a far higher percentage upheld than the rest of the NCAA Division I, which had just 17 of 61 targeting fouls upheld.

"It should have been called on the field," Anderson said. "We missed this and this would be one that this year we would want the instant replay official to stop."

Anderson also said the NCAA has changed where the ball is ruled dead when a quarterback decides to slide. Before, the ball was placed at the spot where the ball was relative to when the quarterback legally touched down to be ruled stopped. Now, for additional player protection, the ball will be spotted where it was when the quarterback began his slide, as long as the slide was feet first.

"That's one of the additions to the category of defenseless player that has been added in terms of protecting the quarterback," Anderson said.

Another change is the length of timeouts. All timeouts before were 30 seconds in length, but were often extended by media timeouts for television. Now, teams will have the option, if television does not take a break, to extend one of the three timeouts to a "full" timeout for additional time.

"The way timeouts work is in the past they've really been geared relative to their length based upon TV," Anderson said. "If a team calls a timeout and TV decides to go to a media break that becomes what we refer to as a full time out and we'll punch out. They'll sometimes last a couple of minutes and then welcome back in. In the past, if TV decided not to go out for a break then every timeout was a 30-second timeout. The strategy problem that coaches had with this was that oftentimes late in the game when typically TV has exhausted their timeouts, their allotted timeouts where the coach felt like (they needed) more than 30 seconds to come up with a play because I'm down by 4, it's fourth and 22 I need more than 30 seconds to come up with something on that. So what the coaches petitioned and the Rules Committee agreed to is one of their three timeouts - if the TV does not take the full break - they can use as a full timeout."

Anderson noted that the committee was going to allow teams that option on all three timeouts, but worried that coaches would use two or three consecutive timeouts as full timeouts to "ice" a kicker late, resulting in a five-minute delay in the game.

The Rules Committee also shrunk the area of a "low-blocking zone" - meaning below the waist - from tight end-to-tight end to tackle-to-tackle in the box.

"The tight ends have been taken out of the ability to block low from the side inside that tackle box like they have in the past," he said while showing an example of a play. "They're really just like wide receivers who can't come back in and crack back. Any player who is inside the tackle box and stationery - so the five linemen and in this case these three backs - they can block low from the side. You're going to see the tackle. He comes out, ends up blocking the linebacker. The big difference this year is this all has to occur within the tackle box which is right at the line of scrimmage and in back and between the tackles. It's no longer down field, so the big rule change for many (is stopping the low blocks down the field). The tackle comes down and he's going to block the linebacker from the side. Last year, that was a legal play. This year that is illegal. That linebacker is beyond the tackle box. The contact is from the side, and so he can't do that."

Anderson also noted coaches can now be ejected from games for unsportsmanlike conduct, just as players have been subjected to in the past.

"It's a point of emphasis just relative to the image of the game, the demeanor on the sideline and the conduct and the interaction between coaches and officials," he said. "It's important to the game, and that's the way that they felt like they needed to get coaches sort of in line with what the expectation is with players in terms of conduct."

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