New rule does more harm than good
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 00:09
I, like most of America, was excited at the fact that college football returned two weekends ago. The weekend was filled with highly anticipated match-ups and shined with the glow of the start of a season where anything was possible. And, like most Americans, I immediately noticed that the NCAA decided to implement two new rules that drastically change the game.
Moving the kickoff to the 35 yard line with touch-backs coming out to the 25 yard line, was the first noticeable change. The change mimics what the NFL did last year in an effort to cut down on concussions. The most violent play in football is a kickoff return and concussions were down last year in the NFL, so this change makes sense for college football. The second rule is the questionable one. Meet the NCAA’s new helmet rule, which states:
“A. If during the down a player’s helmet comes completely off, other than as the direct result of a foul by an opponent, the player must leave the game for the next down. The game clock will stop at the end of the down.
“C. If the ball carrier’s helmet comes off as in paragraph a (above) the ball is dead (Rule 4-1-3-q). If the player is not the ball carrier the ball remains alive, but he must not continue to participate in the play beyond the immediate action in which he is engaged. Prolonged participation is a personal foul (Rule 9-1-17). By definition such a player is obviously out of the play (Rule 9-1-12-b).”
Very rarely does a new rule make itself so obviously known so early in a season or seen in such a widespread manner. The enforcement of this rule has been seen in nearly every game this season. Auburn sent Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd to the sideline several times by ripping his helmet off. Georgia did the same to Missouri quarterback Jordan Franklin. Yesterday, Ohio State corner-back Jamie Wood cost his team 15 yards after he lost his helmet getting blocked on a kickoff and continued to help make the tackle. Less than 10 minutes later, Virginia defensive end Jake Snyder set up Penn State with a first and goal after he made a tackle without a helmet. Penn State scored on the next play.
The premise of the rule is to encourage players to strap their helmets up tight in order to cut down on concussions. The reality is that players are using the rule to their advantage. Need an advantage for a big third down play? Take the quarterback’s helmet off on second down and face the backup for that third down.
The biggest area of the field that this rule is affecting is in the trenches. Offensive and defensive linemen are trained early to lock up an opposing player via the chest area of their shoulder pads and push up. If your hands find their way up to the opposing player’s helmets, so be it. Hence, the NFL adopted the “Illegal Use of Hands” penalty, which is mainly called on offensive linemen who block the defensive lineman by the face-mask. For the record, the NFL rule makes sense and actually solves a problem.
The NCAA’s new helmet rule requires your second string guys to be ready at all times and actually encourages linemen to block using the defensive lineman’s face-mask. Why not try to get Jamie Collins out of the game by taking his helmet off when the worst that can happen is he continues on with the play and gets a 15 yard penalty called against him?
Supporters of the rule claim it will cut down on concussions and make the game safer. Without sounding too disrespectful, the two worst hits of this college football weekend occurred during the Tulane-Tulsa and Arkansas-ULM games. There were two helmet-to-helmet hits that caused severe injuries and frightening scenes but in neither case did one of the players lose their helmet.
I pray for the speedy recovery and health of both players but this rule did not protect them. Nothing could have. Those were football plays. That’s the nature of the beast. This rule encourages the act of removing helmets much more than it protects players from concussions. It will be interesting to see how this rule will affect the rest of the college football season. If it becomes less notable throughout the season and keeps players’ hats on, then the NCAA did a good job. However, it’s trending more towards costing a team a victory in a nationally televised conference game. Only time will tell.