NCAA FB Rules Committee: Changes Encourage Safer, Quicker Play

Wesley MarshallContributor IFebruary 18, 2008

The NCAA Football Rules Committee met in Indianapolis last week and has proposed significant rule changes for the 2008-2009 season.


 Their primary focus in these meetings, according to committee chair Michael Clark, was to “enhance the safety of our student-athletes.” 


The changes are pending review by another committee in March before taking effect.

While safety has always been an issue of great focus for NCAA athletics, these latest proposals may have been encouraged by coach’s concerns.  Such concerns had already prompted league officials to distribute surveys to substantiate claims that moving back kickoffs caused an increase in injuries during special teams play this season.

So what does the committee have in mind for next year?  For starters, “horse collar” tackles will be prohibited with a penalty of 15 yards upon violation.  The NCAA has finally decided to follow the lead of the NFL, which banned such tackles after its 2004 season, when several major injuries were blamed on horse collar tackles. 

The committee also developed stricter definitions for officiating crews to enforce chop blocks and tacklers leading with a helmet.  Rogers Redding, another member of the committee, said that in doing so “the committee is giving our game officials more tools to penalize potentially dangerous contact.”

In contrast, the committee deemed that incidental grabbing of the face mask is not hazardous, and it has eliminated the five-yard version of the penalty. 

Also among the proposals are new rules in clock management that will facilitate quicker games.  The NCAA would adopt an NFL-style play clock that begins when the ball is declared dead and runs for 40 seconds (or 25 seconds after penalties or timeouts).  On plays in which the ball is run out of bounds the game clock would resume upon signal by the referee, rather than the start of the next play. 

Other recommendations by the committee include the following:


  • Yardage penalties would be enforced upon sideline warnings.
  • Fumbles that are immediately recovered would be eligible for review.
  • Coaches would be issued a single challenge per game, and awarded a second upon winning the first.
  • Receiving teams on kickoffs would have the option of taking the ball on the 40, rather than the 35-yard line, after a kick travels out of bounds.

Although these proposals may be less controversial than those of the past few years, they stand to drastically impact the momentum and flow of college football and how teams strategize each Saturday.