The NCAA Football Rules Committee’s annual passage of potential new rules for the sport will once again include a potentially controversial measure.
Following four days worth of meetings in Orlando, the NCAA announced Thursday that the committee has approved several proposals that, if approved Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP), will go into effect for the 2016 season. As has previously been expected, one of the proposals the committee voted on and approved was to “expand the authority of the instant replay official, requiring them to review all aspects of targeting fouls.”
In a review of the controversial targeting rule, the NCAA found that, in what it described as a “small number of cases,” players were wrongly ejected from games. Those ejections came after the original targeting call on the field was reviewed by the replay official. Now? The committee has recommended that the same replay officials be given the power “to stop the game and create a targeting foul in situations where an egregious action has occurred” but was missed by the on-field officiating crew.
“The targeting rule is serving the game well, and has enhanced player safety,” said Bob Nielson, chair of the committee and head coach at the University of South Dakota, in a statement. “Because this is such a severe penalty, we are instructing replay officials to review plays to ensure that the required elements of targeting exist. We are also adding the ability for the replay official to stop the game when a potential targeting foul is not detected on the field.”
In another tweak that could ultimately lead to a significant technological development in the not-too-distant future, the committee has approved a proposal that would allow electronic devices — i.e. tablets — in the press box and locker rooms during game day. What will still not be permitted is such devices being utilized on the sidelines, something the NFL approved two years ago and which the college version of the game is expected to ultimately adopt. In that vein, the NCAA wrote in its release that “[t]he committee will continue monitoring the use of those devices next year in addition to other potential technology enhancements it believes could improve the game.”
Last year, the rules committee had approved a proposal that would’ve adjusted the ineligible receiver downfield rule from 3 yards to 1 yard. That controversial proposal was met with significant push-back from HUNH coaches, and was ultimately tabled by the PROP. The ineligible receiver downfield rule will remain the same as in the past, the NCAA has reaffirmed, although “the committee [has] decided to instruct officials to stringently enforce the 3-yard limit and adjust officiating mechanics to better officiate those plays.”
Three additional proposals aimed at greater player safety were approved:
• First, the rules dealing with low blocks were adjusted to prohibit a player who leaves the tackle box from blocking below the waist toward the initial position of the ball.
• Second, the rules pertaining to a defenseless player will include a ball carrier who has clearly given himself up by sliding feet first.
• Finally, the deliberate tripping of the ball carrier (with the leg) was approved as a foul.
All of the proposals approved by the rules committee will be considered by the PROP on March 8. Again, if approved, the proposed changes would be implemented for the 2016 season.