Does College Football Stop The Clock On First And Ten Safety Is Key in Proposed NCAA Rules Changes

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Safety Is Key in Proposed NCAA Rules Changes

The NCAA is considering five significant rule changes for the 2012 college football season. The Playing Rules Oversight Panel meets on Tuesday, February 21 to discuss and ultimately decide whether the proposed changes will be implemented.

The NCAA Rules Committee, a 13-member board that includes coaches and athletic directors representing all divisions, met a few weeks ago to propose the changes. Contrary to popular belief, the proposed changes are written by coaches and officials, not the NCAA. Once the committee discusses any rule changes, a proposal is sent to all NCAA members as well as all conference official staff.

Changes to the rules are introduced on a two-year cycle, with the change taking effect from the second year. This allows the coaching staff to implement the rule the first year and train their players on the new rule that will take effect the second year.

Any rule changes involving player safety could bypass the two-year transition period and take effect immediately. All five changes proposed for 2012 relate to player safety and, if confirmed, will be part of the rule book this coming season.

Here is a summary of the changes to the current proposed rule for 2012.

Kickoff and touchback moved the starting lines

Teams will kick off from the 35-yard line instead of the 30-yard line. The kick coverage team must be within five yards of the 35-yard line at the time of the kick. This prevents coverage players from gaining speed and momentum prior to the kick. Kicks not returned from the end zone will appear at the 25-yard line instead of the 20. The rules committee is trying to encourage touchbacks after studies have shown that more injuries occur on kickoffs than at any other point in the game. .

Losing a helmet during a game

Studies show that players lose their helmets an average of two times per game. In terms of safety, any damage to the helmet during the game will be treated as an injury. A player who loses his helmet cannot participate in the next play. Also, once a player loses his helmet during a play, he must not continue participating in that play. For those who think that losing a helmet can stop the clock in crucial situations, outdated injury rules already protect against such plays as a means of stopping the clock.

Blocking below the waist

The rules regarding blocking below the waist will be clarified to allow all players aligned in the tackle box at the time of the snap (and not in motion) to block without blocking below the waist. Not all other players can block below the waist, however, there are some exceptions.

Shield blocking on punts

More and more teams are using the “shield” punt defense where three blockers are aligned shoulder to shoulder with the punter in an attempt to prevent a blocked punt. Defenders countered by jumping over blockers. Studies show that many of these defenders will flip over and land on their heads on the field. For the safety of these players, the new rules will be similar to those used on place kicks. Players cannot jump over blockers, however, they can jump straight up into the air or between two blockers.

Additional protection for kick returners

Kick returners will be given extra protection while fielding kicks. The returner must complete the catch before the kicking team makes contact. The rule would be subject to official interpretation, but the rule change was proposed to ensure a coverage player does not have a “free shot” on an unprotected punt or kick returner.

It seems likely that each of these proposed changes will be approved by the Oversight Panel and installed for the upcoming season. Regarding safety issues, the NCAA, Rules Committee and Oversight Panel usually agree and confirm any proposed changes.

For more information on the rule changes and oversight panel results from the February 21 meeting, visit http://www.ncaa.org.

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