NCAA, AFCA Reportedly Have Discussed Eliminating Kickoffs in College Football

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 18, 2016

Michigan wide receiver Dennis Norfleet (23) escapes tackles on a kickoff return in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Maryland in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. The play was nullified due to a Michigan penalty. Maryland won 23-16. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
Associated Press

With an eye toward player safety, the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee and American Football Coaches Association have reportedly discussed eliminating kickoffs from college football.

According to a Monday report by Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com, the two bodies have had "informal talks" about finding an alternative for kickoffs, although they likely would not implement changes any earlier than the 2018 season.

Per Dodd, Big 12 Commissioner and oversight committee Chairman Bob Bowlsby believes kickoffs put players at risk more than anything else in the sport of football: "I don't think there is any doubt it is the most dangerous play in the game. How much that's the case and how we can fix it is unknown."

Although the data is preliminary, it appears injuries occur on kickoffs more often than other play types, and AFCA executive director Todd Berry believes that makes a rule change worth looking into, according to Dodd: "I'm excited we're starting to have this discussion. It looks like the data is skewed where we have more injuries on that play. If that's the case, we have to look at eliminating the play, modifying the play, change blocking schemes."

Both college football and the NFL have taken steps to reduce kickoff-related risks in recent years by moving back the starting point to the 35-yard line, thus increasing touchbacks.

Per Greg Johnson of NCAA.org, the rule change paid instant dividends for the FBS, as there were more touchbacks in the first month of the 2012 season alone than the entire 2011 campaign.

While the change has led to fewer big collisions on kickoffs, eliminating the play altogether is the only way to put a stop to them.

It's unclear how the NCAA intends to replace kickoffs should it reach that point, but the wheels are in motion to find other options at the least.


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