A college football player who delivers a hit to the head of a defenseless opponent could be kicked out of the game next season under an NCAA proposal that took a step forward Wednesday.
The NCAA Football Rules Committee said it had unanimously approved strengthening of the penalty for intentional above-the-shoulder hits. The 15-yard penalty will now have an ejection tacked on, assuming the Playing Rules Oversight Panel approves the plan next month.
Player safety was the theme of the committee’s three-day meeting in Indianapolis, with the ejection for targeting the most noticeable change fans will notice in 2013 across all NCAA divisions. The committee also tweaked the rule on below-the-waist blocks.
Perhaps one of the stranger rule changes, and one Boise State fans surely will notice, would require teams to have either their jerseys or pants contrast in color to the playing field. The Mountain West had barred the Broncos from wearing all-blue uniforms on their blue turf during conference games last season.
As for the high hits, chairman and Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said the committee wanted to address clear instances where a defender is leading with the crown of his head to hit a defenseless player above the shoulders.
“It’s a real problem in the sport,” he said, “and we need to eliminate it.”
Last season, Calhoun said, there were 99 targeting penalties called in the Football Bowl Subdivision that, under the proposed rule, would have called for an ejection. He said the player on the receiving end of the hit in many cases sustained a concussion or other type of injury that caused him to miss significant playing time.
“It’s not a gigantic number,” Calhoun said of the 99. “Ultimately, our goal is zero. Is that realistic? I don’t know if zero is. But I know any time you involve an ejection, we’re going to see that number go down drastically immediately.”
If the penalty occurs in the first half, the player would be ejected for the remainder of the game. If the penalty occurs in the second half or overtime, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game and the first half of the next game.
The rule would allow for the ejection portion of the penalty to be reviewed through video replay. The replay official must have conclusive evidence that the penalized player didn’t intentionally target a defenseless player in order to overturn the call on the field. Calhoun said the 15-yard portion of the penalty would not be reviewable.
The committee also attempted to simplify the blocking-below-the-waist rule, which was found to be unevenly enforced and difficult to teach to officials, Calhoun said. Now low blocks delivered from in front of the defender anywhere on the field are legal and low blocks from the side or back are not.
Previously, whether a player could block below the waist depended on his position at the snap, whether he was stationary or which direction he was moving after the snap.
The contrasting colors rule would appear to target Boise State.
The Broncos like to wear all-blue uniforms while playing on their blue home turf. The rule would prevent players from being “camouflaged,” Calhoun said. Opposing coaches have complained that the Broncos’ all-blue uniforms make it difficult to prepare for games at Boise because it’s hard to differentiate Broncos’ players against the blue backdrop.
The rule, of course, also would apply to teams that wear all green uniforms on green turf or, in Eastern Washington’s case, all red on its red turf.