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‘Dooley Rule’, two others changes approved by NCAA panel

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Two months after receiving recommendations from the NCAA Football Rules Committee, the Playing Rules Oversight Panel has approved three rules changes that will take effect in the 2011 season, with two of the new rules dealing directly with players safety.

As recommended in February, the biggest change will come from how below-the-waist blocking is defined and called.  Players on the line of scrimmage within seven yards of the center will still be permitted to block below the waist anywhere on the field as in the past, but anywhere else “cut blocking” will be illegal except on scrimmage plays in the following instances:

–Wide receivers more than seven yards from the center at the snap of the ball can block below the waist only against a player facing him or toward the nearest sideline.

–Running backs/receivers in the backfield and outside the tackle box (the area five yards on either side of the center) or players in motion can block below the waist only on players facing them or toward the nearest sideline.

As well as clarifying the new cut-block rules in an attempt to enhance player safety, the panel approved a change that will make it a five-yard penalty for three defensive players to line up shoulder-to-shoulder-to-shoulder over a single offensive player on field goal and extra point attempts.

And then there’s what’s lovingly becoming known as “The Dooley Rule”.

At the end of regulation of the December Music City Bowl, Tennessee was leading North Carolina when the Tar Heels committed a penalty with one second left in regulation.  That penalty actually benefited the confused Tar Heels immensely as it allowed them to get their field-goal unit on the field for the game-tying field goal attempt, which they made.  The Tar Heels ultimately won the bowl game in double overtime.

If such a situation would occur in a game in 2011 and beyond, a team like the Volunteers would have the option of a 10-second rundown of the game clock if a team commits a foul that stops the clock in the final minute of both halves.  Such an option would’ve given head coach Derek Dooley a win in his first bowl game with the Vols as there were under 10 seconds left in regulation.

Technically, the new “10-second runoff rule” — i.e. “The Dooley Rule” — would give the opposing team three options:

–Take the yardage penalty and the 10-second rundown.

–Take the yardage penalty without the 10-second rundown.

–Decline both the 10-second rundown and the penalty yardage.

In addition to the rule changes, the panel also made note of two rule changes that were approved last year but will not go into effect until 2011, including one that has the potential to stir up a tidal wave of controversy.

This will be the first year of the rule change regarding unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, which will be treated as either live-ball or dead-ball fouls. Previously, all fouls of this kind were treated as dead-ball fouls.

The change means, for example, that if a player makes a taunting gesture to an opponent on the way to scoring a touchdown, the flag would nullify the score and penalize the offending team 15 yards from the spot of the foul.

Penalties for dead-ball misconduct fouls (for example, unsportsmanlike behavior after the player crosses the goal line) continue to be assessed on the ensuing kickoff or the extra point/two point conversion attempt.

Another rule that goes into effect this season is video monitors being allowed in the coaches’ booth for the purpose of determining whether a team should request an instant-replay challenge. Only a live broadcast of the game will be allowed (that is, no editing/rewinding capabilities). If monitors are installed, the home team must provide the same equipment in both coaching booths.

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