Rulebook Wednesday: CFB Rulebook Change Rundown, Breakdown

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Hi there WSU sports fans!

Welcome to my series pertaining to the rules, regulations and strategies of College Football and College Basketball, respectively. I am very excited to dive into these pieces and as we move into the college season we will begin to hash out things that we see throughout each sport which are controversial or may not be clear. You can just refer to me as “The Ref”.

First off let me preface everything with a little nugget: I have been a High School Basketball Official going on 10 seasons now. My ultimate goal is to get into the college game in the near future and eventually break into D-1 College Basketball. I am a “student of the game”, as the saying goes, always reading over rules and situations while comparing things to my knowledge as a player and also studying other officials on film and on tv. As well I attend many college officiating camps and read a good amount of insight from a whole lot of trusted sources from around the high school, college and even the pro levels. I never played major college sports myself due to some eligibility shenanigans but I have played with many college athletes at various levels so I know how they approach the game. So before you think “you don’t know what you’re talking about”, just know that I probably do. I am still learning, but that’s the great thing about any position in sports, you’re never too good to be better.

Over my time as a referee I have come to the realization that beyond the rules of the game, there are a lot of “game management” tips that a pair of stripes receives, that the average fan simply doesn’t know about or understand while their critiquing your “skills” as an official. In fact, even though a fan may “know” the rule as it is written, they don’t always, and in fact rarely truly know why plays are or aren’t called a certain, specific way. If you were to be in the game a while on our end, you’d end up realizing that the rules and strategies for these sports are extremely advanced from both a referee’s, a player’s and a coach’s perspective, beyond what you see and can garner from just watching a game on television. Being an intense Washington State supporter myself, I want my fellow Cougar faithful to be some of the most educated fans in the sports, and I am here to begin to clear it all up for you.

So let’s jump in and talk some College Football shall we. This week I’m just going to rundown with you the College football rule changes for 2012 so you’re not the fan that didn’t understand that a rule was changed and thus ignorantly shout about it incorrectly during the game.

2012 CFB Rule Change Rundown, Breakdown:

All Rules have been approved by the NCAA football rules committee:

— Teams will kick off at the 35-yard line instead of the 30. Also, players on the kicking team can’t line up for the play behind the 30-yard line, which is intended to limit the running start kicking teams used to have during the play.

— Also, touchbacks on free kicks will be moved to the 25-yard line instead of the 20 to encourage more touchbacks. Touchbacks on other plays (for example, punts that go into the end zone, or fumbles that go out of the end zone) will remain at the 20-yard line.

*Anybody who also watches the professional game of football, known as the NFL, will have heard about the kickoff moving from the 30 to the 35 yard line last season. It was a very controversial topic but ultimately it did accomplish the mission of reducing returns, therefore reducing the risk of high speed impacts and injuries over not just a game, but the entire season. Yet still there was a record setting year when it came to returns for touchdowns. Yep, I thought that was weird too.

I’ve always thought that a muff of a kickoff was almost a good thing for a returner (provided the ball bounces where the returner can field it cleanly and still get his eyes upfield quickly) because it created an loss in 5 yards from the kickoff team where they actually have a better chance of running right past the returner and creates less waves for a returner to maneuver through. Moving the gunners on the kickoff up 5 yards so they don’t get such a running start essentially does the same thing, along with allowing the blockers to have an extra half second (which is everything in football) to set up their block, allowing the returner a clearer vision of the entire field. You might be surprised to see that the college game might be even more explosive, if and when a good returner gets his hands on the ball in the field of play.

College moving the touchbacks to the 25 are a generally good move in my opinion. I really think that the strategy part of kicking off now comes into play more than ever before. With the kickers of this generation, 5 yards can actually be quite important in terms of moving the ball into field goal range and increasing the amount of drives that result in points. 

— Another new rule that goes into effect next season is if a player loses his helmet (other than as the result of a foul by the opponent, such as a facemask), it will be treated like an injury. The player must leave the game and is not allowed to participate for the next play.

Current injury timeout rules guard against using this rule to gain an advantage from stopping the clock. Additionally, if a player loses his helmet, he must not continue to participate in the play, in order to protect him from injury.

*Twice per game in 2011 helmets came off of somebody’s head and I personally saw many games where the numbers were much more significant than that. It’s simply a safety hazard when a player’s hat comes off of his head. Players need to find a way to keep their helmets on during the action. I don’t know, tighten your chinstrap or simply just button all of the straps available. The rule is in place to not only keep the helmets on but to protect any player who’s been hit hard enough to have his helmet dislodged. He should probably be checked anyway.

— The rules panel also approved new wording in the football rules book regarding blocking below the waist. Offensive players in the tackle box at the snap who are not in motion are allowed to block below the waist legally without restriction. All other players are restricted from blocking below the waist with a few exceptions (for example, straight-ahead blocks).

— There will also be a new rule prohibiting players from leaping over blockers in an attempt to block a punt. Receiving-team players trying to jump over a shield-blocking scheme has become popular for teams in punt formation. Receiving-team players try to defeat this scheme by rushing into the backfield to block a punt. In some cases, these players are contacted and end up flipping in the air and landing on their head or shoulders.

*Honestly, below the waist blocking has always been a bit of a mystery to fans in general. This clears everything up and I’m glad they reworded it so that it can be easily understood. In the “box” (which is that 7 or 8 yard space between the linebackers and the offensive linemen) a player’s base is generally low, therefore he is able to protect himself. However outside of that box or once a play gets stretched out players generally have higher stances as they have opened up to run. Think of getting blindly hit at your knees with a large stick as you are in a full sprint. That’s why the rule is in place. Due to earlier rules straight ahead blocks

The leaping rule is good in that it will prevent a crippling neck or spine injury somewhere down the line. Players are crazy when they try and leap over somebody and especially when trying to block a punt you are taught to stretch out to get it. It’s not good to be stretched and flipped.

Well folks, that’s it for this week. See ya next Wednesday for more information designed at making you a better fan!

Signed,

“The Ref”