NCAA Adds 15-Yard Penalty for Hitting QB Below Knee in Passing Situations

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2014

NCAA President Mark Emmert answers a question at a news conference Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip

Starting in the 2014 season, a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty will be assessed when a defensive player hits a quarterback below the knee, provided the quarterback is in a "passing posture" with at least one foot on the ground.

The rule was agreed upon Wednesday during a conference call by the NCAA Rules Oversight Panel after being previously discussed and going un-acted upon at the Football Rules Committee’s February meeting, according to the official release announcing the rule.

The release goes on to explain the rule's assessment:

The rule specifically covers a scenario in which a quarterback is in a passing posture with one or both feet on the ground. In that situation, no defensive player rushing unabated can hit him forcibly at or below the knee. The defensive player also may not initiate a roll or lunge and forcibly hit the quarterback in the knee area or below.

Exceptions for these types of hits occur when:

  • the passer becomes a runner, either inside or outside the tackle box;
  • the defender grabs or wraps the passer in an attempt to make a conventional tackle;
  • the defender is not rushing unabated or is blocked or fouled into the passer.

Since the rule was first discussed in February, all 10 major conference commissioners have lobbied on its behalf, per the release. It was formally submitted for further consideration by Jon Steinbrecher, the commissioner of the Mid-American Conference and chair of College Football Officiating, during a conference call on March 5.

Like almost any rule introduced to college football, this one will not come without its detractors. The rule is noble in nature—its goal is to protect quarterbacks' knees from injury, which is definitely a good thing—but when enforced improperly, it could lead to ticky-tack 15-yard penalties that alter the course of a game.

Nebraska receiver Kenny Bell is already complaining about its passage:

In the end, this rule will draw ire from fans when their team is flagged for committing it. However, it won't draw half as much ire as a torn ACL to their quarterback would draw distress.

In my mind, that makes it a good thing.