Worst Rules in College Football

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2014

Worst Rules in College Football

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    The NCAA did something right on Thursday, making a tweak to the controversial targeting rule for the better.

    According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, teams will no longer be penalized when an official review reverses an on-field targeting call. Previously, the review would nullify the ejection of the flagged player but not the 15-yard penalty.

    It was a rare bit of clarity from a rules committee that has often taken heat. The targeting rule was a good-natured rule with poor execution, but the NCAA showed a level head in fixing it. Next year, it should be far less of a problem.

    In that vein, here's a look at some other rules college football could do without. Some are newer and controversial, others established and accepted as part of the sport.

    But all could stand to be amended.

Down by Contact

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    What's the point?

    Not every difference between the NCAA and NFL makes the latter stronger than the former. Overtime, for example, is more exciting and legitimately fairer in college than it is in the pros. It's not even close.

    This one, however, is silly. Why is a player down when he hits the ground in open space? If a defender does nothing to defend him—can't even lay a hand on his lying body—why is he being rewarded?

    Why can't the player get back up and run?

The Transfer System

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    You and I both do not have enough time to discuss everything that's wrong with the NCAA's transfer rules. But we don't need it.

    The word "everything" sums the problem up tautly.

    That might sound harsh and is, in some ways, an overstatement. That players are allowed to transfer at all is a good thing, so perhaps not "everything" is wrong with the system. It's the nuance that's a problem.

    Specifically, the ability of schools to block the transfer of its former players is a joke. As Adam Kramer of B/R recently examined during the case of Michael Brewer at Texas Tech, bylaws like 6.3.1 in the Big 12 handbook are painfully hypocritical:

    A 4-2-4 transfer student-athlete who is in compliance with NCAA Bylaw 14.5.6 must complete one full academic year in residence before being eligible to compete in a sport and forfeit one season of competition unless, in sports other than football or basketball, the director of athletics of the Conference Member Institution of initial enrollment consents in writing to the student-athlete’s enrollment at the second Conference Member Institution. Any consent given relating to the indirect intraconference transfer may be unconditional or conditioned on the student-athlete completing one full academic year in residence at the second conference Member Institution before competing.

    Brewer was blocked from transferring to Texas and TCU because TTU didn't want him to stay in the conference.

    However, according to Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Brewer wanted to play at those schools because he is from Texas and had connections in the area. Connections that would have helped put his degree to good use in the job market.

    If—as the NCAA so eagerly trumpets—college players are students first and athletes second, then why is Brewer's future being blocked for reasons of football paranoia? Why is this sport able to interfere with his future?

    Why is everyone such a hypocrite?

Pass Interference Only 15 Yards

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Like the down by contact rule, this is a case of the NFL getting it right and the NCAA getting it wrong. Plain and simple.

    In college football, for some hard-to-understand reason, every pass interference penalty is 15 yards.

    It happened two inches from the line of scrimmage?

    Fifteen yards.

    It happened at the goal line on a 60-yard bomb?

    Fifteen yards.

    It happened anywhere, in any situation on the field?

    Fifteen yards.

    Shouldn't there be differences based on context?

    Shouldn't interference that nullifies a 50-yard touchdown be a big deal? Shouldn't that be different from a player grabbing a jersey on a bubble screen?

    It makes no sense.

One-Hop Onside Kick Rule

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    This one is grounded in sanity, but bizarre.

    In 2012, the NCAA passed a rule granting new rights to the receiving teams on "one-hop" onside kicks. They are awarded space to field the kick, as if it were a punt, and the kicking team cannot recover until its opponent has touched the ball.

    "That will take that one-hop kick out of the game as far as onside kicks," said Steve Shaw, the SEC coordinator of officials, per Jerome Boettcher of the Nashville City Paper.


    I'm all for safety in college footballmore so than most people you'll meetbut this is a gross piece of micromanagement. Worse yet, it's counter-intuitive.

    The one-hop onside kick is the ideal onside kick, one of the soundest strategies a team can employ in that situation. If a kicker executes it well and his team plucks it out of the air, they deserve to be rewarded.

    Not penalized.

Three-Second Spike

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    Ever watched a player spike a football?

    The distance between a quarterback's hand and the turf below is not vast. In most cases, it is roughly four feet. To propel it toward the ground should take one, maybe two seconds max.

    However, in 2013 the rules committee established three seconds as the baseline time a team could spike the ball under—ipso facto, if the ball is snapped with three seconds left, even if it hits the ground with two seconds left, the spike would be considered null.

    It's not overly important, as it rarely comes into play, but it's there. And it's dumb. No matter what the situation, the clock should start when the ball is snapped and stop once the ball is downed.

    If it takes five seconds, run off five seconds. If it takes one second, run off one.

    Why should anything else be the case?