6 Rule Changes That Would Happen If Fans Ran College Football
What are some rules college football fans would change if they were in charge?
Rules are essential to any game, but some rules are too limiting. Some rules prevent injury, while others promote fair play. College football fans collectively accept these rules as justified. What about rules, though, that seem silly and unnecessary?
This list will cover six college football rules that make little sense as they stand. Maybe they need clarification; maybe they need to be replaced altogether. Either way, they need to be changed somehow.
All rules come from the book, NCAA Football: 2013 and 2014 Rules and Interpretations. To download a free PDF copy, visit the NCAA's publications website. The list is ordered how the rules appear in the rulebook.
Now for the rules.
Drawing an Opponent Offside
The rulebook, on page FR-11, prohibits this:
"Shifting in a way that simulates the start of a play or employing any other unfair tactic for the purpose of drawing one’s opponent offside. This can be construed only as a deliberate attempt to gain an unmerited advantage."
Why should it be illegal to try to draw the opponent offside?
Trying to draw the opponent offside is part of strategy. Both offenses and defenses move around behind the line of scrimmage to confuse the opponent and sometimes to draw an offside penalty.
This might be a wimpy way to gain yards, but there’s enough risk involved for teams not to try it all the time. The more disciplined side won’t buy into the trick, and then the side trying to draw the offside will waste time and risk a delay-of-game penalty.
Since both offenses and defenses can employ this strategy, it shouldn’t be considered “a deliberate attempt to gain an unfair advantage.” Also, the strategy doesn’t carry any more of an injury risk than does normally running around the field.
Fans that like when teams cleverly try to manipulate their opponent would eliminate this rule.
Using Different Footballs
The rulebook, on page FR-20, says this:
"During the entire game, either team may use a new or nearly new ball of its choice when it is in possession, providing the ball meets the required specifications and has been measured and tested according to rule..."
Why should teams be allowed to use different balls?
This seems unfair. Even though all footballs used are tested prior to the game to meet certain specifications, each team shouldn’t be allowed to bring its own balls.
Even though fans like when teams do things to improve their chances of winning, they also like when both teams express fair play. A more neutral way to change this rule would be to have the NCAA bring balls to each game. This way, both teams are using the same balls, and teams wouldn’t have to spend the time ensuring their balls meet the specifications.
Fans who like as few variables as possible would change this rule.
The rulebook includes some rules designed to prevent teams from cheating or injuring their opponents via uniforms. Though these rules are good and promote fairness, some of them are too limiting.
For example, the rulebook says this on page FR-23:
Solid white towels no smaller than 4” by 12” and no larger than 6” by 12” with no words, symbols, letters, or numbers [are permitted]. Towels may bear the team logo. They may also contain a single manufacturer’s or distributor’s normal label or trademark not to exceed 2-1/4 square inches in area. Towels that are not solid white are not permitted.
As long as the towels are the same for every member of the team, why should it matter what they look like? Also, putting the player’s jersey number on the towel wouldn’t be a bad idea, as it might better help those who need to identify the player.
Fans understand the need to promote fairness and safety, but they also like individuality. Teams that express solidarity through their uniforms, which includes towels, should be allowed to do so without abridging the need for fairness and safety.
Helmet Removal During Play
The rulebook, on page FR-47 and FR-48, says this about resetting the play clock when a player’s helmet comes off during play:
If the officials signal the game clock to be stopped for any of the following reasons, the referee shall signal (one open palm in an over-the-head pumping motion) that the clock should be set at 25 seconds:...13. An offensive team player’s helmet comes completely off through play. The play clock is set to 40 seconds if the helmet comes completely off a player of the defensive team. [Exception: If there is an option for a 10-second subtraction in either half, the play clock is set at 25 seconds for any player.]
Why does it matter whether the helmet comes off of an offensive or defensive player?
Fans would clarify the language of the rule to explain why this happens. If there’s no logical reason for the difference in play-clock resetting, then the helmets coming off of offensive and defensive players should result in the resetting of the play clock to the same time.
The rulebook, on page FR-88, defines who is a defenseless player. In particular, special rules concerning quarterbacks and kickers should be eliminated.
Fans would change the rule to say any player without the ball is a defenseless player and therefore cannot be tackled.
Here is an example of how kickers get special treatment:
“A kicker in the act of or just after kicking a ball, or during the kick or the return” is a defenseless player.
Fans who dislike the idea of having so many defenseless players wouldn’t give kickers special protection during kickoffs. A kicker is just as much a player as everyone else. The kicker shouldn’t be any more free to make a tackle as are the other members of the kickoff team, and some kickers indeed like to make tackles on the kickoff return.
Here is an example of how quarterbacks get special treatment:
“A quarterback any time after a change of possession” is a defenseless player.
These fans wouldn’t give quarterbacks special protection over other players. Like a kicker, a quarterback is just as much a player as everyone else.
Number of Officials
The rulebook, on page FR-105, says:
"The game shall be played under the supervision of four, five, six or seven officials."
Why isn’t there a fixed number of officials?
Fans would change the rule to have a fixed number of officials for each game. This would promote fairness throughout college football.
This rule needs to be more straightforward, especially because it affects the people on the field who enforce the rules. An unfair number of officials across different games would not be allowed under the discretion of fans.
As always, thanks for reading, and check me out on Twitter @MCarroll_Philly!