Wednesday, the NCAA's rules committee released a set of nine new rules it wants to add for the 2013 college football season. They address head injuries, fake injuries, Lane Kiffin, Lane Kiffin again, and more replays. A lot more replays. After literally minutes of analysis, we give our verdict on the necessity and effectiveness of each of these rules.
NEW RULE No. 1: Targeting and hitting defenseless players above the shoulders results in a 15-yard penalty and ejection.
KNEE-JERK REACTION: College football isn't the only sport that was once almost eliminated because players were dying on the field, but it's the most prominent. Hits like the one above (or the D.J. Swearinger hit in this EDSBS post) are causing concussions, eventual brain damage, and sad, terrible, crazy things in former players. They're also putting the future of the entire sport in question, as parents hesitate to send their boys to football practice. Football is a violent sport, yes, but it's also a sport played with giant pads made to protect almost every body part. That we cannot adequately protect a player's neck and head without a rule like this makes a rule like this essential. The only criticism is that a player who violates this rule only gets a one-game suspension, tops.
THUMBS UP OR THUMBS DOWN: Thumbs up. Anything that preserves the sport from the growing horde at its gates while simultaneously preventing former players from eating through a straw at age 45 is a good thing.
NEW RULE No. 2: An injured player in the last minute of either half results in a 10-second runoff.
EXAMPLE (pretend it's an offensive player):
KNEE-JERK REACTION: Faking injuries late in the half to stop the clock has been a part of football since the infamous "Fainting Irish" did it to Iowa in 1953. But in the day and age of the forward pass and television commercial breaks, is this really an epidemic requiring a fix? Don't teams just use first downs and spike plays to replace faking an injury? And those questions don't even get to the potential gamesmanship involved in this, particularly if it applies to both teams irrespective of their score or position. When a team with a three-point lead and a minute to play fakes six injuries to bleed the clock out, we'll be furious, especially because that team will be Arkansas. Bret Bielema once took advantage of the old out-of-bounds kickoff clock runoff rule to kill a half against Penn State. Five hundred Internet dollars says he's already preparing to install this during spring practice.
THUMBS UP OR THUMBS DOWN: Thumbs down. Largely unnecessary and poorly conceived.
NEW RULE No. 3: A spike to stop the clock cannot occur within the last three seconds of the half.
KNEE-JERK REACTION: I have no idea how this is going to work. Presumably, a spike attempted with 2.9 seconds remaining in the game would lead to a 2.9-second runoff while the spiking team, likely believing they had beat the clock, looks on impotently. The spiking team inevitably protests, leading to a three-minute game-ending replay. Hello, anticlimactic finishes!
This also creates another question: What is a spike? Is every incomplete pass inside three seconds going to result in the end of the game? And, if not, why can't my quarterback take the snap, turn right, and throw it off my H-back's shoe? If you put your leeward ear to the ground and listen very carefully right now, you can actually hear every Nebraska fan read this and realize that they might have won that last Big XII Championship Game after all.
THUMBS UP OR THUMBS DOWN: Thumbs down. Does nothing to fix the perceived problem. The NCAA isn't getting rid of "Did he spike it in time?" questions. It's just moving the question up by three seconds. Also, allows for too much tomfoolery and too many referee judgment calls for an uncommon occurrence that can be correctly decided by, you know, just watching the game clock.
NEW RULE No. 4: A player that changes numbers during a game is required to report the change to the referee.
KNEE-JERK REACTION: I can't believe this wasn't a rule already. Coaches should have been Parent Trapping opposing teams for years now. Of course Lane Kiffin was the one to figure it out.
THUMBS UP OR THUMBS DOWN: Thumbs up. Anything that makes Lane's life a bit more difficult is fine by me.
NEW RULE No. 5: Only one player with a given number can participate at any position; any player with a duplicate number cannot play the same position.
EXAMPLE: See NEW RULE No. 4.
KNEE-JERK REACTION: The state of Nebraska doesn't have Big Ten Network on basic cable yet, so when I was in Omaha during the Iowa-Indiana game, I was relying on an iPhone app for updates. You can imagine my surprise, then, when the app told me that Iowa true freshman C.J. Beathard had thrown two early touchdown passes. It took the app (and the user, to be fair) a few minutes to realize that Beathard wore the same number as starting quarterback James Vandenberg, and that it was just a mistake by the guy entering the information.
What I'm saying is, this rule can stop confusion and disappointment when one is stuck in Nebraska. That's as good a reason as any for its implementation. Oh, and it frustrates Lane Kiffin again.
THUMBS UP OR THUMBS DOWN: Thumbs up.
NEW RULE No. 6: Teams must have either their jersey or pants contrast with the playing field.
KNEE-JERK REACTION: Coaches throughout the WAC and Mountain West -- most famously Pat Hill at Fresno State -- have complained about Boise State's camouflage effect when wearing all-blue uniforms on blue turf. The effect on the game itself is probably overblown, but Hill's complaint, that the way that Boise's uniforms blend into the background when watching film, is certainly echoed by every neutral observer who has ever tried to watch the Broncos. The Mountain West already banned Boise from wearing all-blue at home, but with the proliferation of non-green turf, the problem was on the verge of metastasizing across the sport.
The big question is whether Oregon, South Florida, or any other team that wears green (North Texas?) can wear an all-green outfit on standard turf. South Florida and the other schools will mix it up, but you know Phil Knight is already ordering DAY-GLO yellow turf for Autzen.
THUMBS UP OR THUMBS DOWN: I can't answer right now. I just blinded my mind's eye.
NEW RULE No. 7: Officiating crews can use electronic communication devices.
THUMBS UP OR THUMBS DOWN: This is going to end with that Pac-12 ref who has voice immodulation syndrome singing "Baby One More Time" to a half-full LA Coliseum through a Britney Spears headset microphone. Can't argue with that. Thumbs up.
NEW RULE No. 8: The Big XII can have an eighth official during conference games in the backfield, opposite the referee.
KNEE-JERK REACTION: This sounds great, until the league tells you that the eighth referee in every game will be Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds.
THUMBS UP OR THUMBS DOWN: The Big XII will add an eighth official this season. When two officials leave for other conferences next year, commissioner Bob Bowlsby will tell us that the conference is perfectly happy with six officials, before adding a Big East official and settling at seven again. Thumbs down.
NEW RULE No. 9: Instant replay can adjust the clock at the end of each quarter.
KNEE-JERK REACTION: Replays already take up far too much time during an already-brief season. Anything that is going to result in more of them is unnecessary.
THUMBS UP OR THUMBS DOWN: I would give it a down vote, but the referee would spend the next three minutes making sure I completed the downward motion with my thumb under control.