‘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.

Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp set to return after two-game absence

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp #1 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers grabs a touchdown pass against linebacker D.J. May #7 of the Wyoming Cowboys at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Wyoming 52-14. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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When undefeated and seventh-ranked Nebraska takes the field for its biggest game of the 2016 season thus far, it’ll do so with one of the most experienced and productive pieces of its passing game back in action.

Jordan Westerkamp sustained an injury to his back during the Week 5 win over Illinois, and was briefly hospitalized after being hit by an Illini defender. The wide receiver missed the Week 7 win over Indiana and the Purdue win the following Saturday because of the injury.

This week, however, Westerkamp practiced without any type of restrictions ahead of the Week 9 game against No. 11 Wisconsin in Madison. Westerkamp, who stated his injuries included tiny fractures on the transverse process in his spine as well as what was described as a deep muscle bruise, confirmed the obvious, that he will suit up for the Cornhuskers and play against the Badgers in the huge Big Ten West matchup.

“It’s been good,” Westerkamp said, by way of the Omaha World-Herald, of his return to practice. “My confidence is at an all-time high and we’re ready to go get back with the team and kick butt this Saturday.”

At the time of the injury, Westerkamp led the Cornhuskers in receiving touchdowns (four) and tied for the team lead in receptions (13). His 228 receiving yards were second behind Alonzo Moore‘s 310.
Last season, Westerkamp led the ‘Huskers in all three of those categories.

‘Due to some choices and decisions he’s made,’ Florida RB Mark Thompson won’t play vs. UGA

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Mark Thompson #24 of the Florida Gators in action during the second half of the game against the North Texas Mean Green at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Sounding very similar to a disappointed parent, Florida has announced that one of their kids will be in timeout instead of on the field this weekend.

Ahead of Saturday’s annual rivalry game with Georgia, Florida announced via Twitter that running back Mark Thompson not only won’t play this Saturday but won’t even make the trip to Jacksonville for The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.  Why? “[D]ue to some choices and decisions he’s made.”

The school, obviously, will not go into any further details as to the issue or issues that will sideline the player.

Thompson, a 6-2, 237-pound redshirt junior, is currently third on the Gators in rushing yards (262) and second in rushing touchdowns (two). This is the back’s first season in Gainesville after transferring in from the junior college ranks earlier this year.

Big 12 eschews two-division setup; instead, top two teams to play in league title game

WVU vs Marshall
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The Big 12 earlier this month eschewed expansion.  A short time later, they’ve done the same for splitting up the conference.

The league announced late Friday morning that, when the conference championship game returns for the 2017 season, there will be no split into two five-team divisions.  Instead, the teams with the best and second-best record in conference play will square off in the conference championship game.

Each conference member will continue to play nine league games every season, one against each other member.

“There are a number of advantages to matching our top two teams,” said commissioner Bob Bowlsby in a statement. “Given our round-robin, nine-game scheduling model, it is expected the Big 12 champion will be uniquely positioned for College Football Playoff consideration. I would argue there will be no path more difficult than our champion’s, where it will have played every team in the Conference, faced at least one Autonomy Conference non-conference opponent, and then plays in our championship game.

“The guaranteed No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup will be a great game for our fans, and it’s hard to imagine a stronger position for a conference champion.”

The release gave no indication as to how three-way ties would be handled, although CFP rankings would likely come into play.  The decision to not split into two divisions likely won’t sit well with the league’s coaches, however, even as it’s arguably the wisest decision the conference has made in years.

The conference also revealed that the site of the 2017 conference championship game “will be announced in the coming weeks.” AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, is widely believed to be the front-runner for at least the first renewal, and is viewed as the far and away favorite if the league opts to “anchor” the game at one site for a period of years.

USC cruised to win over a ‘tired, beat-up’ Cal team as Sonny Dykes chastises scheduling ‘travesty’

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 27:  Running back Ronald Jones II #25 of the USC Trojans scores a touchdown to take a 14-0 lead over the California Golden Bears during the first quarter at Los Angeles Coliseum on October 27, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Pac-12 schedule makers started the final nail in Cal’s Week 9 coffin. USC’s offense proceeded to drive it all the home.

Behind a career night for both Ronald Jones and Sam Darnold, the Trojans jumped out to a 28-10 halftime and ultimately cruised to a 45-24 win. Both Jones and Darnold set career highs on the night, the former with 223 yards rushing and the latter five touchdown passes.

Those two players were part of an offense that rolled up a season-high 629 yards of offense.  It was the schedule, though, that saw a significant amount of the focus on the game, especially in the days leading up to it and the immediate aftermath.

Cal’s last game was Friday, Oct. 21.  USC’s last game?  Oct. 15, meaning the Bears, on five days rest, were facing a team coming off a bye, and facing them on the road no less.

“It’s one of those deals where you go, ‘How in the world could this ever happen? How could somebody let this happen?'” head coach Sonny Dykes said in the middle of the week. “It has been a disaster, it’s been a mess. … It’s incredibly hard on our kids.”


“We looked like a tired, beat-up football team. I think it’s a travesty whoever scheduled this game. I hope the Pac-12 doesn’t do that again to any other school. It’s not right for the kids.

“Everybody talks about student-athlete welfare, but they need to put their money where their mouth is.”

Leave it to the esteemed Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News to sum up what most non-USC fans are thinking about the situation the Bears were placed in.

Hopefully this player safety issue — and that is, ultimately, what this is all about — is rectified by the Pac-12 and, as Dykes alluded, never repeated. For a conference that’s been (rightly) praised for their initiatives in the past, they certainly dropped the scheduling ball on this one.