NCAA Announces Football Rules Changes

The NCAA Football Rules Committee met recently and adopted or changed several rules intended to enhance player safety.

A rule change approved by the committee increases the penalty for interference with the opportunity to catch a kick, when no contact is involved, from five to 10 yards. The rule, commonly known as the "halo rule," states that no player of the kicking team may be within two yards of a receiving team player positioned to catch a punt, kickoff or field goal.

The penalty for a halo violation when contact is made remains 15 yards, as does the provision that flagrant offenders shall be disqualified for the remainder of the game.

"The committee is intent on providing returners a measure of safety when they are in the vulnerable position of not seeing opponents coming at them while they are looking up for the ball," said Donnie Duncan, committee chair and senior associate commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.

"Coaches and members of the kicking team must understand the seriousness of violating the two-yard restricted area. The committee believes increasing the penalty will help to underscore that point."

A rule addition also related to player safety enables yardage enforcement of flagrant personal fouls during possession by the defensive team to carry from one extra period to the next. Previously, the player committing the foul would be disqualified for the remainder of the game, but the 15-yard penalty against his team was not assessed.

The change represents a minor shift from the philosophy that a penalty that occurs at the end of an extra period in a game that is still tied should not impact the next period.

"The desire is to have all extra-period possessions begin at the 25-yard line, but the committee does not believe the yardage portion of a penalty that involves player disqualification should be disregarded," Duncan said. "This should send a clear message that flagrant fouls will be penalized to the fullest extent allowed by the rules."

The committee also identified good sportsmanship and reducing unnecessary hits against players in defenseless positions [e.g. quarterbacks after releasing the ball, receivers extended for passes, and kickers and punters in their follow-throughs] as points of emphasis for 2002.

The committee expressed its concern over the current exception in the rules that allows advertising on the field in non-regular-season games when the sponsor is associated with the name of the game. This concern will be forwarded to the NCAA Football Issues Committee and the NCAA Football Study Oversight Committee in conjunction with those groups' review of commercialism in the sport.

The committee voted to allow experimentation in certain conference games. A specific experiment approved by the group involves the use of a two-interval play clock, possibly as early as the 2002 season. All experimental rules must be approved by the NCAA divisional governance structures in their oversight role of rules involving financial impact on institutions.

Under the experimentation, teams would have 45 seconds to snap the ball after the ball is dead on the preceding play. However, when the game clock is stopped for administrative reasons (first down gained, ball out of bounds, change of team possession, penalty, etc.) at the conclusion of a play, teams would have 25 seconds to snap the ball after the ready-for-play signal is given by the referee.

"Coaches are concerned over the difference in the number of seconds it takes to mark the ball ready for play from game to game," Duncan said. "The two-interval system may be a possible improvement, and this research will provide the committee with valuable information as it decides if the rule should be changed."

The 45-25 play-clock operation would be limited to conference games of those conferences that choose to participate in the experiment. Data on the length of games, number of plays, number of delay of game penalties, and other factors related to the play clock, will be collected to assist the committee in its determination of whether or not to consider adopting the two-interval system on a permanent basis.

Among the other rules approved by the committee were:

-Prohibiting team personnel from engaging in media interviews from the start of the first period until the end of the game, except for coaches being interviewed during halftime;

-Requiring all players of a team to wear facemasks of the same color; and

Giving a team that scores a touchdown the option of enforcing penalties for personal fouls by the opponent during the scoring down either on the try or the succeeding kickoff.

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