NCAA Rule Changes for College Football

NCAA Rule Changes for College Football


Oversight panel approves new rules for 2012 college football season.

When you tune in to watch your favorite college football team at play this season, you’ll quickly realize that several rule changes have been put into place. The NCAA’s Playing Rules Oversight Panel made adjustments to the kickoff and touchback lines in a bid to reduce injuries. Those rules were approved during a February 2012 conference call.

Kickoff Position

Once again, the kickoff position has been changed, placed back at the 35-yard line, up from the 30. In 1925, kickoffs were from the 40 yard line, then moved to the 35-yard line in 1986. Later, it was pushed back to the 30, but returns to the 35 this season. The move is to encourage touchbacks, reducing the chances of contact when bringing the ball back on a kick return.

The NCAA’s kickoff rule change follows the NFL, which adopted the 35-yard line rule beginning with the 2011 season. That change has been criticized by players and coaches alike, for removing an important and exciting component from the game — blazing fast kickoff returns.

Touchback Differences

To reward receiving teams for taking a touchback, the NCAA places the ball on the 25-yard line instead of the 20. This change applies only to free kicks — on other plays, such as when the ball is kicked out of the end zone, the ball will be placed on the 20. Expect much confusion this fall as fans take in these differences.

Another new rule that is certain to spark controversy is a player’s loss of a helmet during the game. If a player’s helmet pops off during a play, it will be treated as an injury, requiring the player to leave the game for one play. An exception is made for a face mask penalty where an opposing player forces the helmet off of the player. In this situation the player who loses his helmet stays in the game; the opposing team is charged with the usual face mask penalty.

Block That Kick

Verbiage regarding blocking below the waist has been modified. Offensive players operating in the tackle box at the snap who are not in motion may now block below the waist unrestricted. For everyone else, blocking below the waist is not allowed except in certain instances such as straight-ahead blocks.

Blocked punts, a fan favorite of defensive plays, is being hamstrung as well. No longer will players be permitted to jump over a “shield-blocking scheme” in an effort to block the punt. The change was made as in some instances players would flip into the air and land on their head or shoulders, an injury-inducing move. Defensive players will have to find other acrobatic moves that stay within the NCAA’s new guidelines.

Analyzer Analysis

Expect each rule change to be analyzed to death this football season. More kickoffs will sail out of the end zone and games will come to a halt when a player’s helmut pops off. The latter could be a useful ploy for college coaches who would get a quick time out when a helmet comes off. The coach could then send in a fresh player with a new play, perhaps impacting the outcome of a game. The other changes may bring about a collective yawn from fans, something ESPN cameras will be certain to take in as they pan the bleachers.

The complete list of rule changes for this season can be found on the NCAA website. Additional changes are being discussed for the 2013 season.


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