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How NCAA's Proposed Rule Changes Would Impact the Refs

Alabama coach Nick Saban makes a point to an official during the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game against Oklahoma, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press
Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterFebruary 14, 2014

Practically all of the focus on the NCAA's two proposed rule changes has been on the defensive substitution rule—and why it's awful

Specifically, the NCAA could prevent offenses from snapping the ball until 10 seconds have gone off the play clock, allowing defenses to substitute players at will. Otherwise, the offensive team will face a delay-of-game penalty. 

That is irony in it's richest form and it doesn't help that the NCAA Football Rules Committee cites player safety as a reason. This is ridiculous and borderline insulting, as there's never been evidence that proves hurry-up offenses cause more injuries than traditional offenses. 

GAIL BURTON/Associated Press

But, absurdity aside, the "anti-hurry-up" proposal isn't the worst thing in the world. Actually, the NCAA got another proposal right: the adjustment to the targeting rule. However, since the NCAA has perpetually become everyone's favorite punching bag, that proposal didn't garner as much attention

In fact, if there's one group that benefits from both of the proposed changes, it's the officiating crew. And you won't find a jaded fan out there who won't agree that referees need all the help they can get. 

Let's start with the adjustment to the targeting rule since it deserves more limelight. A common problem in 2013 was that an official would see a hit that, in real time, had the characteristics of targeting. The official would throw a flag and the player inflicting the hit would be ejected. However, if instant replay determined the hit was not targeting, the ejection would be overturned—but the 15-yard penalty would remain. 

It was an awful rule, one that should have been given the Ark of the Covenant treatment. 

Under the new proposal, if video review finds a player did not target, the 15-yard penalty will be dismissed as well. The exception is if there's another personal foul penalty assessed on the play, such as roughing the passer. In that case, that specific penalty will stand. 

The adjustment allows officials to continue erring on the side of caution, which was the intent of the targeting rule to begin with. Now, there's less pressure on the officials throwing the flag. If it looks like targeting, the official can make the call. If it is targeting, the punishment will stand; if it isn't, everything is reversed as though nothing happened.

A prime example of how the decision would be reversed is Oklahoma's game against Tulsa last season. Safety Gabe Lynn was initially ejected for targeting before instant replay reversed the decision. However, the 15-yard penalty (in this case, half the distance to the goal) remained. 

As for the defensive substitution rule, it gives officials what it gives the defense: more time. 

With a 10-second runoff, officials can place the ball and get off the line of scrimmage well before the ball is snapped. This allows referees plenty of time to get set and better assess pre-snap situations. 

The only time a hurry-up offense would be allowed to operate normally is in the final two minutes of each half. For 56 of the game's 60 minutes, officials would be guaranteed to have extra time on their side. 

Ultimately, officiating won't be the end-all, be-all reason for why the proposals pass or not. In the hypothetical situation that they do, however, officials stand to be small victors in an otherwise controversial decision. 

 

Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. 

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