College football is not ignoring the ongoing national dialogue about making football a safer game. The NCAA Football Rules Committee unanimously voted to increase the penalty for players who “target and contact defenseless players above the shoulders.” The penalty will now be a 15-yard on-field penalty and an automatic ejection of the offending player from the game.
Here is more from the NCAA release:
The proposed rule will mirror the penalty for fighting. If the foul occurs in the first half of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game. If the foul occurs in the second half or overtime of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game and the first half of the next contest.
The committee has also decided, in an effort to address concerns when one of these plays is erroneously called, to make the ejection portion of the penalty reviewable through video replay. The replay official must have conclusive evidence that a player should not be ejected to overturn the call on the field. Additionally, a post-game conference review remains part of the rule and conferences always have the ability to add to a sanction.
The change will have to be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel next month.
There were other game-play rule changes made by the committee:
- Ten seconds will be run off of the clock whenever injury is the only reason for a stoppage of the clock. This will be in effect only during the final minute of each half.
- There will need to be at least 3 seconds remaining on the clock in order for an offensive team to spike the ball to stop the clock.
- If a player changes numbers during a game, he will be required to report it to the referee, who will announce it.
- Two players of the same position on the same team cannot share the same number.
- Teams will be required to have either their jerseys or pants contrast in color to the playing field.
- Officiating crews will be allowed (but not required) to use electronic communication. This is a result of the SEC’s experiment with such tools in 2012.
- The Big 12 will be able to experiment with an eighth on-field official during conference games in the upcoming season. The official will be in the backfield opposite the referee.
- Instant replay will now be able to adjust the clock at the end of each quarter, not just halves.
Several of the changes could be significant. The ten second run-off for injury sounds like it would be a deterrent for players faking injuries. But, there is also the possibility that it could deter a player from reporting a serious injury, which could be more harmful.
The requirement of three seconds for a ball spike is a no-brainer. Legitimately, there should be no more than one play when three or less seconds remain.
The reporting of a number change is also something that’s overdue. Did you hear that, Lane? Television announcers will collectively rejoice at the rule that two players at the same position on the same team can no longer wear the same number.
The new regulation requiring pants or jerseys conflict with the color of the field is an optical delight. I think that one was clearly aimed at Boise, Idaho.
Electronic communication seemed to work very well in the SEC last year. Making it available nationally should be a major help. The eighth on-field official experiment in Big 12 games will be one to watch. If it works, it could revolutionize officiating. But it could also over-crowd the playing field.