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.