‘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.

SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 all have 5 teams in coaches top 25 poll

Johnny Jefferson, Micah Awe
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With multiple teams in the coach spill top 10 losing this week, there was bound to be some shaking up the rankings this week. The coaches poll still has Ohio State on top, followed by TCU, Michigan State and Baylor. Florida had the biggest jump in the rankings while Georgia had the biggest drop The coaches poll also welcomes some new additions this week.

The Florida Gators, fresh off a stomping of previous No. 3 Ole Miss (down to No. 13) moved up 11 spots in this week’s coaches poll. Florida is one of five SEC teams in this week’s coaches poll. The Big Ten has five as well. So does the Pac-12.

No. 23 Iowa, No. 24 Boise State and No. 25 Memphis make their debuts in the coaches poll this week, giving us our first glimpse on the national perception in the Group of Five race. I may have Boise State down a few pegs, but the coaches, or those who actually submit the votes, have the Broncos on top of the Group of Five pack. Memphis is right there as well, but not Toledo.

Here is this week’s coaches poll:

  1. Ohio State ( first place votes)
  2. TCU
  3. Michigan State
  4. Baylor
  5. LSU
  6. Clemson
  7. Utah
  8. Florida State
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Alabama
  11. Texas A&M
  12. Florida
  13. Ole Miss
  14. Northwestern
  15. Notre Dame
  16. Georgia
  17. USC
  18. Stanford
  19. Oklahoma State
  20. UCLA
  21. Michigan
  22. California
  23. Iowa
  24. Boise State
  25. Memphis

Brian Kelly defends decisions on two-point conversion attempts

Brian Kelly

Notre Dame fell two points shy of tying a road game at Clemson Saturday night, partly because the decision to go for two-point conversion on one early fourth-quarter touchdown backfired on the Irish. Down 12 points early in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly chose to go for two-points to cut the Clemson lead to 10 points, meaning Notre Dame would need a touchdown, extra point and a field goal to tie. The two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Irish trailed by 12, 21-9.

Had the Irish gone for the easier and more likely extra point, Notre Dame would have been down 11 points. That is still a bit of an uphill battle that would require a two-point conversion later on anyway, but it also meant Notre Dame had to score two touchdowns instead of a touchdown and a field goal for a shot at tying the game. Making things worse, Notre Dame burned a timeout after the touchdown before deciding which two-point conversion play to run.

Notre Dame’s execution of a late two-point conversion with the game on the line with under 10 seconds to play also came into question as the Irish looked to give freshman quarterback DeShone Kizer the call on a run-pass option. This was stuffed by Clemson as Kizer held on to the football. Kelly, after the game, defended his quarterback’s decision to try and run for the two points.

“We had fair numbers,” Kelly said. “He’s reading it at the line of scrimmage, if the numbers were fair, they were in zone coverage. It was the right call. He made the right call.”

Sometimes a player can make the right decision and still come up short. Perhaps that is exactly what happened in the rain at Clemson Saturday night. Kizer made the best possible decision in the heat of the moment, but Clemson came out on top with solid work up front on the line of scrimmage. Of course, as it turned out late in the game, Notre Dame would have only needed an extra point to tie Clemson in the final seconds after the Tigers tacked on a field goal to set up a seven-point deficit with an Irish extra point earlier. The Irish were forced to go for two because they chased the points earlier in the quarter. Hindsight might be 20/20, but Kelly is not looking back on that decision.

Kelly is hardly the only coach to make some questionable decisions under pressure this season, or this weekend. He is, however, another example of a coach being paid millions to put his program in the best position making some questionable calls that have come back to bite him. Maybe Notre Dame would have won in overtime. The Irish certainly had the momentum in their hands. Or maybe Clemson wins anyway. Who knows?