Earlier this year, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a few new rules for the upcoming 2013 season. Not surprisingly, the biggest change was related to player safety. Following the example of over-doing it set by the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell, the panel added a rule that would require the ejection of any player who hits a defenseless receiver. If the offense occurs in the first half, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game. However, if it occurs in the second half, the player will be ejected for that half and the first half of the next game.
Last year, the panel passed rules that encouraged teams to take touchbacks on free kicks and required players to sit out a play if they lost their helmet. A study illustrated the amount of injuries, specifically head injuries, that occur on kickoffs and the consequent rule was introduced to reduce the amount of kickoff returns. Also, it was determined players were not properly securing their helmets, resulting in almost two helmets per game falling off during play. The rule was instituted to encourage players to firmly secure their helmets and give the medical staff a chance to examine the player if he was hit hard enough to cause the ejection of his properly secured helmet.
Those rules, although debatable, at least made sense. Player safety, especially the safety of unpaid college players, should always be the focus of the Rules Oversight Panel. I will give the panel credit for allowing all “defenseless player” penalties to be reviewed by the replay crew before ejecting the player, but this has gone too far. Football being played at Beaver Stadium is going to resemble the flag football leagues played on the IM fields across Park Ave.
Defensive players are no longer allowed to hit the quarterback high or low. They are unable to physically cover a receiver running routes, and now they face ejection if they hit the receiver while he is trying to catch the ball. A penalty that results not only in a 15 yard penalty, but ejection from the game and potentially the first half of the team’s next contest. You don’t need a vivid imagination to see how this is going to impact games moving forward.
Furthermore, when the defenseless penalties are being reviewed, the rule is written as such that it must show conclusive evidence the player did not intend to violate the rule. The video replay can only be used to overturn an ejection, not the 15 yard penalty that accompanies the call. The first time an ejection is overturned after review but the 15 yard penalty still enforced based on the wording of the rule, twitter will explode. Not to mention the conspiracy theorists that will come out of the woodwork when a key defensive player is ejected in the 2nd half of a game prior to a rivalry game.
To put this in prospective, imagine Adrian Amos laying a hit on Indiana’s Shane Wynn and being ejected, forcing him to miss the first half of next week’s Michigan game. I don’t understand how intent can ever be proven in real time on the field, let alone through a video review. The NCAA is making the same mistake the NFL is making, they are making the officials more important than the players. I’m hoping for a controversy free 2013, but if I was a betting man, my money would be on a lot of controversy surrounding this rule change.
All rule changes, including two that were rejected by the panel, are available on the NCAA website.
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