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tBBC NCAA Football Rules Changes for 2016

Discussion in 'News' started by Charles, Aug 4, 2016.

  1. Charles

    Charles Guest

    NCAA Football Rules Changes for 2016
    via our good friends at Buckeye Battle Cry
    Visit their fantastic blog and read the full article (and so much more) here

    Each season the NCAA rules committee tinkers and makes changes to the rules of the game. Sometimes these are major rules changes that have are very noticeable to the majority of fans while other times they are minor tinkering to rules that pretty much everyone but the officials will fail to notice; these minor changes often even go unnoticed by the players and coaches. This year the NCAA made 14 rules changes that are a mix of major and minor things. In this article I will go over these new changes and offer my perspective as a high school football official on how they will likely impact the game.

    Coach Ejections

    Perhaps the most notable rule change is football coaches can now be ejected (Rule 9-2-6). Most of us are familiar with the rule that if a college basketball coach picks up two technical fouls in a game, they are ejected. However, while football coaches could draw unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, they wouldn’t be ejected no matter how many times an official throws a flag on them. Under the new rule, a coach will now be ejected if he gets two unsportsmanlike conduct flags in a game; this change brings football coaches in line with coaches in other college sports and the football players themselves.

    Then San Francisco 49ers head coach and current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh protests a non-call by the officials after a fourth down play during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gene Puskar) ORG XMIT: SB475

    I am a big fan of this rule change. We’ve all seen plenty of coaches yelling and screaming at officials over a call they didn’t like, going well beyond what is reasonable and at times bordering on a temper tantrum. This behavior is not only unprofessional, it encourages players and especially fans to treat the officials in a disrespectful and abusive manner. It also has a trickle-down effect to lower levels of the sport, causing many high school and youth league coaches to think that the proper way to coach and interact with officials is to be abusive and while college officials can earn decent money, lower level officials are doing it mostly for the love of the game and working with kids and having to deal with abuse keeps many potentially great officials away from the sport. Thus, I’m in favor of a rule that provides greater punishment to coaches who behave inappropriately and the possibility of being ejected may cause a coach to take a step back and try to control themselves.

    While this rule change has the potential to cause the most controversial decisions, in all likelihood we will never see it used. How often have you actually seen a college football coach get one unsportsmanlike conduct flag thrown on him let alone two? College football officials give coaches far more leeway than coaches in other sports get. Some of this has to do with the size of the field and the stop and start nature of play which allows a coach to pitch a fit while having less direct impact on what else is going on but a lot of it has to do with the culture of college football. While schools and coaches have no direct say in whether a specific official works their games, they can have some influence via politics as the head of officiating for each conference is hired by the conference commissioner who of course is hired by the member schools. Thus, there is always a bit of a disincentive for an official to penalize a coach for their behavior and in reality coaches in all sports are given unsportsmanlike conduct penalties far less often than they should based on how the rules are written. For a football coach to actually be ejected, we would have to see some extremely inappropriate behavior that probably everyone but the most biased homer fans would agree deserves an ejection.

    Tripping the Ball Carrier

    The general rule has always been that players cannot intentionally trip an opponent but there had been an exception that stated that “tripping the runner is not a foul”; that exception is now gone and tripping an opponent is not allowed period (Rule 9-1-2c). When we talk about tripping, we mean a player intentionally sticking out or raising a leg in an attempt to trip an opponent, not a player making a low tackle around the legs; the intentional nature of the act is also important as it is not a foul if a player accidentally gets his feet tangled with another player while running side-by-side or negotiating their way through a crowd.

    This rule change is mainly for safety reasons and shouldn’t have a big impact on the game as we rarely see tripping called. Getting rid of the exception relating to a ball carrier actually should make things easier for officials as all players are now treated the same.

    Defenseless Players

    Traditionally ball carriers who have secured possession of the ball are never considered defenseless players as long as they still have the ball and are in the field of play. Under the new rule, any ball carrier who slides feet-first is considered to have given themselves up and are now a defenseless player as soon as the slide starts (Rule 2-27-14). This means that the sliding ball carrier will now be protected by the targeting rules which do not allow a defender to make forcible contact to the head or neck of a defenseless player with the penalty for doing so being a 15-yard penalty and ejection.

    The targeting rules have been some of the most controversial new rules in recent years but they are vital to the safety and continuation of the game of football. With the increase in knowledge of the danger posed by blows to the head which can cause concussions and CTE, steps must be taken to reduce these kind of hits in order to protect the safety of players and to make sure that people will still let their kids play football in the future. Once a player has given themselves up by sliding, there is no reason for a defender to hit them anymore, especially to the head or neck area.

    The biggest reason that targeting rules have been controversial to most fans is that they are often very close, judgement calls where an official has to decide if the hit was initially to the head or neck and if it was caused by the defender or the ball carrier. This rule change will increase the number of those judgement calls that need to be made and these are tough calls, especially in the case of a sliding player as an official has to determine when the slide began and when the defender was unable to shift where he was aiming for. The important thing to remember with all the targeting rules is that by rule “when in question, it is a foul” (Rule 9-1-4). Thus, while the extreme slow motion replay from camera angle #5 that you are seeing at home may not agree with the call, if there is any doubt, the official is supposed to call the foul.

    Instant Replay

    Instant replay has received a ton of praise and criticism since it was instituted but no matter what their opinion is about the quality of replay, most people seem to want more plays to be reviewed. One of the areas where this has been demanded the most is in regard to targeting. In the past the replay official could review a targeting call and decide that the action wasn’t enough to warrant the player being ejected; the team the penalty was called on would still be assessed the 15 yards. However, the replay official could not do anything about targeting if it hadn’t been called on the field first. This is changing though.

    Under the new rule (12-3-5b) “The replay official may create a targeting foul, but only in egregious instances in which a foul is not called by the officials on the field. Such a review may not be initiated by a coach’s challenge.” This gives the replay official the power to stop play, review the footage, and assess a targeting call on a player even if the hit was not seen/called by an official on the field; the result targeting penalty would be treated like any other and include the ejection of the offending player.

    I have mixed feelings about this rule change. On one hand, player safety is important and officials can miss seeing hit a from time to time, or at least not get a good angle on it, due to the large amount of field to cover and the number of players flying around. Thus, the new rule allows for these penalties to be assessed by replay official and will hopefully cut down on players making stupid hits because they think they can get away with it. On the other hand, it is rare that a replay official can create a penalty that was not called on the field and I worry that this could turn into a slippery with an ever increasing range of penalties that can be created by the replay official. In general, I think penalties should be left up the officials on the field who are a crew working together all season and thus hopefully have knowledge about how each other call things resulting in more consistency. This wouldn’t be an issue if the replay official could actually see and catch everything but they cannot and thus I worry that allowing the replay official to create too many penalties would damage the consistency that we should be going for in terms of how things are called.

    Another change to the powers of the instant replay official is that they may now stop the game in order for an injured player to be removed at the request of the medical observer (Rule 12-3-6-f). I like this new rule and suspect that it will mostly be applied to concussion-like symptoms. It is easy for a coach to miss concussion-like symptoms if a player stays out in the middle of the field and many coaches still have an old school mindset that a player should just shake it off and keep going even though this is dangerous. This new rule provides another way to get injured players out of a game for their safety though I don’t expect we will see it used much.

    Protecting Passers

    Another rule change concerning player safety has to do with protecting passers against low hits. Last year a rule was added (Rule 9-1-9-b) that made it illegal for a defensive player who was rushing unabated to forcibly hit an opponent at the knee or below if the opponent had the ball and was in a passing posture; note that this applies to all players who are looking to throw, not just quarterbacks. There were exceptions to this rule that kept the defender from being penalized if they were blocked into the passer or if they were attempting to make a conventional tackle. This year, the conventional tackle exception has been modified to ready “It is not a foul if the defender grabs or wraps this opponent in an attempt to make a conventional tackle without making forcible contact with the head or shoulder.” The head and shoulder part is new to the rule and is another move to discourage dangerous hits and actions by defenders. I am in favor of this modification and don’t see it being an issue for the officials on the field to call.

    Fake Kicks

    Most people know that there are rules concerning how many players an offense may have in the backfield and how many players the offense must have on the line. One thing that many fans do not realize is that the number that the players were on their jersey matters and plays a role in whether a formation is legal or illegal. According to rule 7-1-4-a-3, the offense must have at least five linemen wearing jerseys numbered 50-79. This seems like a rather arbitrary and silly rule to many people but it is mainly done to help identify eligible receivers as these five players are never eligible.

    The exception to the numbering rule occurs when the offense is in a scrimmage kick formation in which case they may have fewer than five lineman numbered 50-79. Coaches would sometimes take advantage of this loophole to line up players in unconvential ways either to confused defenders as to who they needed to cover or to try and disguise the fact that a kick was coming. In the past, an offense was defined to be in a scrimmage kick formation if one player was at least 7 yards behind the neutral zone and it was obvious that a kick might be attempted. This year the definition of the scrimmage kick formation has changed to read (new stuff in bold):

    (2-16-10) a. A scrimmage kick formation is a formation with no player in position to receive a hand-to-hand snap from between the snapper’s legs, and with either (1) at least one player 10 or more yards behind the neutral zone; or (2) a potential holder and potential kicker seven or more yards behind the neutral zone in position for a place kick. For either (1) or (2) to qualify as a scrimmage kick formation, it must be obvious that a kick will be attempted.

    The first change to the rule won’t really matter other than the fact that it moves a punter further back from the neutral zone if the coach wants to utilize the numbering exemption; if they don’t want to utilize the numbering exemption the punter may line up any distance from the neutral zone. The second change, rewording things from “kick may be attempted” to a “kick will be attempted” could be a big deal as it opens up a huge gray area. It doesn’t rule out fakes when you want the numbering exemption but it seems like it means that you are run the fake really, really well; or muff the snap and then pick up the ball. This rule leaves a lot of things up to the officials and I am not a fan on the lack of guidance as to wear to draw the line when it comes to determining if it is obvious that a kick will be attempted; it is possible that additional guidance is given in the casebook or in other communications to officials but I have not looked into that yet. I suspect that you will see officials being very lenient in terms of determining whether it was obvious that a kick will be attempted, at least until the NCAA or their conference gets upset and comes down on them.

    Other Rule Changes

    There are several other rule changes taking affect that will be far less noticible as they either 1. have little to impact on the game or 2. only apply to very rare or weird circumstances. These changes are:

    • The title sponsor of neutral-site games may now advertise on the field; in the past this was limited to postseason games (this probably wins the award for being the most “who cares” change).
    • Hand-held cameras operated by television partners may now be between the limit lines and the sideline, i.e. within 12 feet of the sideline, for short periods of time when the ball is dead and the clock is stopped. (Another who cares unless you really want more angles for pointless shots of players standing around between plays).
    • The mascot name may now appear on the jersey. (I’m sure Oregon will find a way to use this to make even more hideous uniforms somehow.)
    • Rule 3-3-3-c now addresses what happens if the athletic directors of both schools involved in a suspended game cannot reach an agreement as to whether to resume the game at a later date, end the game with a determined final score, forfeit the game, or declare the game a “no contest”. If the ADs cannot reach a decision, the rule now states that the conference policy of the home team will decide the outcome. (Has the scenario addressed by this rule ever actually happened?)
    • During a televised game, each coach may request one of their timeouts in each half be a full 60-second timeout as opposed to the 30-second timeouts that are used in televised games. (I’m sure the tv networks are looking forward to selling more ads.)
    • If there is two minutes or less remaining in a half and the game clock is stopped solely to assess a penalty against the winning team, the losing team may choose to have the clock restarted on the snap as opposed to the ready-to-play signal. (I like this one, you shouldn’t be able to burn time and/or gain an advantage by committing a penalty.)
    • If either team substitutes, the ball will not be allowed to be snapped unless the opposing team is given a chance to substitute. (I like this rule though it will annoy hurry-up offenses.)
    • A player that is suspended for the first-half of a game, due to being suspended in the second-half of the previous game, may participate in pre-game warm-up activities but must remain out of sight of the field of play during the first-half.
    • A safety will be called if the kicking team commits a foul in its own end zone during a scrimmage kick.

    The post NCAA Football Rules Changes for 2016 appeared first on The Buckeye Battle Cry: Ohio State News and Commentary.

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