February 13, 2008

More new timing rules among NCAA proposal

The NCAA Football Rules Committee on Wednesday announced several proposed changes, including two designed to speed up the game and others that altered several existing penalties.

The committee recommended administering a 40-second clock to start play after a preceding play ends, and starting the clock on a referee's signal after a play goes out of bounds.

Among the other recommendations: abolishing the 5-yard incidental face-mask penalty, adjusting the "chop block" rule to make it easier to understand and enforce, giving the receiving team the option to taking possession at the 40-yard line after an out-of-bounds kickoff and eliminating warnings for sideline control.

All proposals must go through the NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Panel before taking effect.

Previously, teams had 25 seconds to snap the football after the referee marked the ball ready for play. But the amount of time taken to mark the ball ready varied from conference to conference, so instituting a 40-second clock, similar to what the NFL uses, should standardize the process nationally.

"The concern was from one conference to the next, there was enough variation in the length of time it took the referee to make the ball ready for play," said SEC coordinator of officials Rogers Redding, the NCAA's next secretary-rules editor. "Hopefully this will eliminate that and allow a more consistent time to get the ball snapped."

The 40-second clock will be used unless the game is stopped for injury and change of possession. The 25-second clock will be used coming out of timeouts.

Previously, the game clock stopped when a runner went out of bounds and didn't re-start until the next snap. The proposed change will make an out-of-bounds play just like a first down, after which the clock is started when the official marks the ball ready for play.

But the clock will not start until the snap during the final two minutes of each half to protect the two-minute offenses.

This is the third consecutive year the committee made recommendations to speed up play, a request made by TV networks. Previous recommendations have been criticized, as the changes came at a price of sacrificing the number of plays in a game, and some quickly were repealed.

A change to start the clock upon the officials' mark after a change of possession rather than when the ball is snapped was approved in 2006 but repealed in 2007. The committee is hopeful any plays lost by starting the clock on the officials' signal would be made up by the 40-second clock.

"I hope the third time we got it right," said committee chair Michael Clark, the football coach at Division III Bridgewater (Va.) College. "We wanted to find something the TV people are looking for without taking away plays from the game. The hope is we got it right."

The committee also wanted to help officials make the right call on chop blocks. Any block below the waist when a player already is engaged with another blocker automatically is a chop block penalty.


That's not a dangerous play when a player grabs and releases (the face mask) with no impact on the safety of the player. ... We felt the incidental contact (penalty) was nothing and decided to get rid of it
- Rogers Redding, SEC coordinator of officials

"The difference is in the way the rule is stated," Redding said. "It was a complicated rule from the standpoint of formations, or that it was illegal beyond the line of scrimmage but allowable behind the line. That's a very complicated rule and officials had to process that stuff.

"What we've simply said is a high-low combination block is going to be illegal. It's going to be clear to everybody. The official is not going to have to worry whether the person committing the block is from an adjacent position or behind or ahead of the line of scrimmage."

The committee also recommended eliminating the 5-yard incidental face mask penalty. The 15-yard penalty for a personal-foul face mask still exists.

"That's not a dangerous play when a player grabs and releases (the face mask) with no impact on the runner and no impact on the safety of the player. That's a non-entity," Redding said. "We feel like the real issue is grasping, pulling, turning and twisting. That is retained, but we felt the incidental contact (penalty) was nothing and decided to get rid of it."

Last year, kickoffs were moved to the 30-yard line rather than the 35. This year, the committee is proposing giving the receiving team 5 extra yards if the kick goes out of bounds, with the ball being placed at the 40 rather than the 35.

As for sideline warnings, the new rule would allow a team to be immediately penalized for crowding the sideline.

The committee also proposed four other new rules:

Instant replay would be allowed on fumbles leading to immediate recoveries.

A coach who successfully challenges a play would retain the right to make one more challenge, for a maximum of two.

A penalty would be added for so-called "horse-collar tackles."

Finally, there would be an adjustment on the wording on helmet-to-helmet infractions to give officials more guidance in calling penalties for players making contact with the crown of their helmets or hitting defenseless opponents above the shoulders.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.




 

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