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Rutgers’ Schiano wants to eliminate kickoffs

Greg Schiano, Eric LeGrand

In October of 2010, Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down covering a kickoff in a game against Army.

Needless to say, that tragic accident had a profound impact on the football program in general and on head coach Greg Schiano specifically.  So profound, in fact, that Schiano wants to change the way the game’s been played for many, many decades.

In a story that appeared in Sunday’s Newark Star-Ledger but we’d somehow missed until today, Schiano revealed a plan that he had shared with his fellow coaches at the recently concluded Big East meetings, which is, in essence, to ban all kickoffs at the collegiate level.

“That whole time was a blur,” the coach said of the time he spent at LeGrand’s bedside. “I just remember thinking, ‘Why do we have to have kickoffs? Just because we’ve always had them?'”

While it may have been a blur, the blur resulted in a very detailed plan by Schiano that would eliminate kickoffs and thus, theoretically, reduce the risk of serious injuries in the sport.  Here’s Schiano’s plan, as written up by the Star-Ledger:

…Replace all kickoffs with a punting situation, including after the opening coin toss and to start the second half. So, as an example, when Team A scores a touchdown, it immediately gets the ball back on a fourth and 15 from its own 30-yard line.

It can punt it back to Team B — the most likely outcome and a safer play since the bigger collisions usually happen on kickoffs.

Or it can line up and go for the first down, essentially replacing an onside kick with an offensive play that would require more skill than luck.

Suffice to say, Schiano’s plan is a radical departure from the past 100 years or so, and will certainly be met with skepticism and criticism from people in the game that it’s too radical and completely changes a significant part of the sport.  As far as Schiano is concerned, however, lessening the risk of serious or significant injuries is more than worth it.

“It would lead to much less impact and fewer collisions, but it would still be a way to get the game started in similar field position,” Schiano said.

“I don’t think we’d lose that much, and we’d gain a bunch for the welfare of the players.”

At the very least, Schiano coming out with the idea of eliminating kickoffs will spark serious discussion both inside and outside of the game, and, when it comes to the safety of players who become bigger/faster/stronger every year, maybe that would be a good thing.  It’s doubtful — but certainly not impossible — that Schiano’s plan would gain national traction, but if it leads to further discussion of player safety that also leads to improved equipment and further stressing proper tackling technique from the very lowest levels of the game we say good job, coach.

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10 Responses to “Rutgers’ Schiano wants to eliminate kickoffs”
  1. floridacock says: Jun 6, 2011 6:51 PM

    Dumb idea, way too big a change to the basic game, but I understand where he is coming from.

  2. rashardmendenballs says: Jun 6, 2011 7:06 PM

    While we are at it, why don’t we eliminate helmets and pads, slap some flags on to the boys and call it a day.

  3. ccad05 says: Jun 6, 2011 7:09 PM

    No passing either cause then you’ll have vulnerable receivers

  4. overratedgators says: Jun 7, 2011 12:46 AM

    Under my proposal, team captains will meet at the 50-yard line, and play a best of three round of rock-paper-scissors. Safe and fun for the whole family.

  5. speedel says: Jun 7, 2011 6:35 AM

    how about you teach your players not to lower their heads when making a tackle?

  6. edgy says: Jun 7, 2011 8:49 AM

    I remember when the XFL came out and they talked about how they were eliminating the kickoff and how they were going to have two guys scramble for the ball. I wrote that they were utter fools and they wouldn’t be happy until they hurt someone and ended their career and lo and behold, their first game and first scramble resulted in a year ending injury to the player.


    You forgot lizard-Spock..


    Funny but a lot of people make tackles without lowering their heads. Using your head as a weapon is a LEARNED technique.

  7. smokehouse56 says: Jun 7, 2011 9:24 AM

    edgy….it depends on what you mean by “learned.” Is it taught, is it observed, is it trial on error, is it player gossip.

  8. edgy says: Jun 7, 2011 9:51 AM

    smokehouse56 says:


    A friend of mine was pissing all over Danny White because he was ducking to avoid a tackler and they kept going on and on and on and I finally balled up my fist and jabbed at them and they ducked and covered up. I looked at them and said, “You KNOW that I wouldn’t hit you but your instincts drove you to do something that you felt would best protect yourself.” People don’t naturally use their heads as weapons and our instinct is to protect it by ducking away from a blow and coaches have to “unlearn” that instinct to force someone to do something that nature has told us was absolutely stupid to do.

  9. phillyb6 says: Jun 7, 2011 10:01 AM

    aside from my initial reaction to post a smart-a$$ comment making fun of Schiano, i’ll go with a more practical reason why this is a bad idea.

    “It would lead to much less impact and fewer collisions, but it would still be a way to get the game started in similar field position,” Schiano said.

    Three points:

    One, I see HUGE blowup shots on punt returns all the time. In fact, most of the time, i’m watching the coverage/return team to see who’s going to get blown up as opposed to the returner.

    Two, “similar field position”?? really? UCLA led the nation in net punting last year with a 41.3 yard average. (I looked it up) Punting from the 30 yard line, that would be an average start of roughly the 29 yard line. For the national leader. The median number last year was 36.4 (Boise St.) That means “punting off” from the 30, opponents would start at roughly the 34 yard line. (Estimating now) This means teams would start about 10 yards closer (on avg.) to the opponent’s goal line with this rule change.

    Three, what about a “puntoff” out of bounds? A 20 yard shank would go out on the 50 giving the opponent field position there, (Some shanks are shorter than 20 yards) while OB kickoffs are placed at the 40. Another ten yards difference.

    Schiano, you’re eliminating 10% of the field (even more if you consider the percentage from starting field position). Just because your offense is horrible (114th?! yikes) doesn’t mean you can start taking out parts of the game.

  10. 2007chill says: Jun 7, 2011 11:35 AM

    How bout we institute random drug testing for college football head coaches? We could start in New Jersey.

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