With the 2012 College Football Season officially less than one week away (oh hell yes!), I thought it a perfect time to review the minor changes to two specific areas of the NCAA football rulebook over this off-season. Nothing earth shattering—but minor changes were made to the rules governing kick-off procedure, as well as players taking their helmets off while on the field of play. With respect to kickoffs, the ball will be place at the kicking team’s 35-yard line, five yards forward compared to the previous rule. The motivation behind to increase the likelihood of touchbacks and to put kick returners in fewer opportunities to suffer hard hits on kickoffs. In addition, following a touchback, the ball will now be advanced five more yards to the receiving teams 25-yard line. As a result of these changes, you may see more kickers simply go for the touchback (which in theory will be easier while kicking from further up) or “squib” or “pooch” the ball in an attempt to pin a team back inside the 25-yard line. Also, to curb the practice of defensive players gaining a running-start advantage on kickoffs, 10 players of the kicking team must be touching the 30-yard line when the ball is kicked.
With respect to players keeping their helmets on, according to the rule change, if a player’s helmet comes off, he must leave the game for the following down. The only exception to this is will be if a player’s helmet comes off as a result of a penalty (like a face-mask). If a ball carrier’s helmet comes off, the play must be whistled dead. If a player’s helmet comes off while blocking, tackling or route running, he must cease his participation in the play immediately. If the helmet-less player continues involvement in the play his team will be subjected to a 15-yard penalty. After first glance, this rule change appears to be necessary and one that is in the interest of the players’ safety. The only sticky situation I see is it will be hard for players to “put themselves in time out” if their helmet comes off while tackling or blocking. This could prove logistically tricky, and a lot to ask of a fierce competitor in the heat of the moment.
So what are your thoughts? Are these rule changes necessary? Does the increased player safety gained from compliance with these new rule changes outweigh any change of play/strategy/nature of the sport that may result?