Every year the NCAA goes back to the drawing board to tweak, retouch and add to the rules that govern the on-field action of college football. This year, it has several new and potentially extremely influential proposals on the docket.
Ty Halpin of NCAA.org published a report not only about the most controversial rulings to come, but he also listed the other changes as well.
In addition to the ejections for "targeting" and blocking below the waist, other rule changes that were proposed include:
- To add a 10-second runoff with less than a minute remaining in either half when the sole reason for the clock to stop is an injury.
- To establish three seconds as the minimum amount of time required to be on the game clock in order to spike the ball to stop the clock. If one or two seconds remain on the clock, there is only time for the offense to run one more play.
- To require a player that changes numbers during the game to report this to the referee, who will announce this.
- To only allow one player number to be worn by the same team and participate at the same position (e.g., two quarterbacks on the same team are not allowed to have the same number).
- To require teams to have either their jersey or pants contrast in color to the playing field.
- To allow the use of electronic communication by the on-field officiating crew after successful experimentation by the Southeastern Conference. This is not a required piece of equipment but will allow officiating crews to use this tool.
- To allow the Big 12 Conference to experiment with using an eighth official on the field in conference games. This official would be placed in the backfield, opposite the referee.
- To allow instant replay to adjust the clock at the end of each quarter. Previously, this provision was only in place for the end of each half.
All of these are a pretty big deal, so let's hit on the good, because it is apparent that the rules committee is looking to push through some measures that will benefit the game. Actually, the bulk of these rules are going to have an overwhelmingly positive impact on the game.
The two rules regarding officials are the leaders in the plus category. The Big 12 looking at an eighth official is big as well. It decreases what each official is going to be tasked with observing, and that should lead to more attention paid to the minutia.
Since the new official will be in the backfield, expect him to help with protecting the quarterback, but he will also be privy to more holds on defensive players and chop blocks that often get missed in the mass of bodies.
To go along with that venture, we saw last season's SEC experiment to link up its officials electronically pay dividends. Now, all conferences have that option.
Improved communication leads to better decision making, and with some of the rules and calls that have to be made, more talking is always a good thing. Every official doesn't always have a great angle, and if someone has a better one, speaking up will now be much easier. This, along with replay, is a big plus.
Speaking of replay, count me in favor of the new quarter adjustment replay rule.
That's an extra play for uptempo offenses. That's an extra chance to attempt a pass or a field goal with the wind if the clock is in your favor.
NCAA decision-makers are also attempting to tackle the uniform front. They have two rules on jersey numbers and another on colors. Honestly, I love them all.
First up, they are not allowing teammates that play the same position to wear the same number. This isn't so much a real problem as it is a precaution, due to what "might" happen.
Players that are wearing duplicate numbers should be on opposite sides of the ball, a la Everett Golson and Manti Te'o or Matt Barkley and T.J. McDonald. It shouldn't be a problem, but this rule helps take care of that.
On the same front, they are clearing up another "uniform controversy" that was sparked this year: players have to report to the officials when they change jersey numbers. Officials will announce the change, which means no more deception or trying to slip an off-number player into the game when he is really one of your studs.
I'm also a fan of the "Boise State rule," where contrasting colors must be worn, on the top or bottom, to eliminate the blue-on-blue or green-on-green impact.
It clears up the whole Mountain West controversy and makes it a standard rule across the board in all leagues. This is a win-win for most everyone.
The last clearly positive move is the blocking below the waist simplification. Instead of it boiling down to where you line up and how—on the line versus off the line or in the box versus out of the box—it just matters how you approach defenders. If you come at them from the front, you can cut them. If you are on the side or the rear, you cannot.
This works much better than the old and very confusing previous rule.
Now, on to the bad front. The list here is short. In fact, the ejecting players for "targeting" proposal is the only proposal that I truly have a problem with.
If the rule was merely about ejecting players for "spearing," then that would make sense. Unfortunately, it throws in the tricky language of targeting and all the variables that come along with it.
Last season, the SEC experimented with suspending players for targeting. It was relatively hit or miss, but no one really walked away thrilled with the process. And that was after film review in the league office, not merely on-the-field review or a referee's judgment call.
This proposal is going to make the water even muddier. Officials "erring on the side of caution" are going to be sending kids out of the game.
We'll see a lot more McKade Brady situations than we should. Kids will be tossed because something looks bad or because a receiver gets up slowly, not because of the actual act of targeting or a hit being illegal.
Hopefully, they slow their roll on passing this measure.
One last part of the proposal that I'm still curious to see implemented is the impact of the 10-second runoff. Generally offenses don't want to run time off the clock, so it should stop them from faking an injury.
However, there is no language about the defense on this rule. Defenses would love a 10-second runoff in certain situations. So, that being said, I'm still not certain as to how this rule will impact the game.
It doesn't solve the issue of defenses faking injury to slow offenses down, and, in fact, it could potentially reward defenses for faking an injury with a runoff so the offense loses time to operate.