NCAA proposes significant changes to kickoffs


A short time after watching Eric LeGrand paralyzed from the neck down covering a kickoff, then-Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano questioned why kickoffs were still being utilized and suggested eliminating the play from the game of college football.

While it’s highly unlikely such a ban would ever be enacted, the NCAA is looking to take steps to ensure greater player safety on kickoffs.

Following a series of meetings that began Tuesday in Charlotte and ended Thursday, the NCAA Football Rules Committee announced it “has recommended several rules proposals intended to enhance student-athlete safety for the 2012 season.”  Included is a proposal that could significantly impact kick returns at the collegiate level.

The committee voted to move the kickoff to the 35-yard line (currently set at the 30-yard line), and to require that kicking team players must be no closer than five yards from the 35 at the kick, which is intended to limit the running start kicking teams have during the play. The committee also voted to move the touchback distance on free kicks to the 25-yard line instead of the 20-yard line to encourage more touchbacks. NCAA data indicates injuries during kickoffs occur more often than in other phases of the game.

The effects of such changes would appear to be twofold.  One, moving the kickoff out to the 35-yard line would increase the number of kickoffs that reach the end zone.  And, two, coaches may be inclined to encourage his returner men, because the spot of a touchback would be moved out to the 25-yard line, to take a knee when a kickoff reached the end zone.

Add both those together and it’s very likely the number of kick returns would decrease, thus decreasing the chance of injury on a play the NCAA’s data suggests is more dangerous than any other in the game.

“In all of our proposals, we are continuing the annual effort to find ways to make our game safer where we can,” said Scot Dapp, chair of the committee and athletics director at Moravian College, in a statement that accompanied the NCAA’s release. “Without question, these changes will enhance student-athlete safety and we feel very comfortable based on the data we collected that the impact will be significant.”

The NCAA went on to explain that the proposals can be implemented immediately because they deal with player safety.

Even though it is a non-rules change year as part of the two-year cycle process, these rule changes can be proposed for immediate implementation because they directly impact student-athlete safety.

The other proposals approved by the committee appear below:

  • Loss of Helmet During Play. If a player loses his helmet (other than as the result of a foul by the opponent, like a facemask), it will be treated like an injury. The player must leave the game and is not allowed to participate for the next play. Current injury timeout rules guard against using this rule to gain an advantage from stopping the clock. Additionally, if a player loses his helmet, he must not continue to participate in play to protect him from injury. Data collected during the 2011 season indicated that helmets came off of players more than two times per game.
  • Blocking Below the Waist. The intent of the changes made last season were to only allow blocking below the waist when the opposing player is likely to be prepared for this contact, but the opposite impact was discovered in some cases. To clarify the intent, the committee approved wording that essentially allows offensive players in the tackle box at the snap that are not in motion to block below the waist legally without restriction. All other players are restricted from blocking below the waist with a few exceptions (e.g. straight ahead blocks).
  • Shield Blocking Scheme on Punting Plays. The committee reviewed several examples of shield blocking, which has become a popular blocking scheme for punting teams. In several cases, a receiving team player attempts to jump over this type of scheme in the backfield to block a punt. In some cases, these players are contacted and end up flipping in the air and landing on their head or shoulders. The committee is extremely concerned about this type of action and proposed a rule similar to the leaping rule on place kicks that does not allow the receiving team to jump over blockers, unless the player jumps straight up or between two players.
  • Additional Protection to Kick Returner. Through officiating interpretation, the committee approved a recommendation to provide a kick returner additional protection to complete a catch before allowing contact by the kicking team.

AD says San Jose State coach Ron Caragher safe for 2016 despite missing bowl game

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A 40-23 loss to Boise State Friday condemned San Jose State to a third straight bowl-less season, but Spartans AD Gene Bleymaier said afterwards the setback would not result in a change in job status for head coach Ron Caragher.

“There’s no question about his status,” Bleymaier told the Contra Costa Times. “Ron’s our coach, and he’ll be our coach going forward.”

Hired away from San Diego to replace the departed Mike MacIntyre, Caragher is just 14-22 in three seasons leading the Spartans.

San Jose State did go 6-6 in his debut season of 2013 but did not garner a bowl invite.

TCU swims way to 2OT upset of Baylor, hands Bedlam Big 12 keys

Associated Press

Entering the 2015 season, most observers thought tonight’s Baylor-TCU game would be for all of the Big 12 marbles.  Instead, that honor will fall to tomorrow’s night Bedlam matchup.

In some of the wettest conditions you’ll see this side of Noah’s ark,  the Horned Frogs and Bears slogged their way through a scoreless second half before two TCU overtime touchdowns to BU’s one handed the homestanding Frogs a 28-21 win in double overtime.

Both teams scored on their initial overtime possessions, TCU on Trevone Boykin‘s one-yard touchdown run and BU on Devin Chafin‘s four-yard touchdown reception from first-time quarterback starter Chris Johnson; that was the Bears first completed pass since the first half.  Boykin’s eight-yard touchdown pass to Kavontae Turpin in the second overtime, with the defense turning out the biggest stop of the game on the Bears second overtime possession. On a fourth-and-1 from the 16-yard line, Chafin was stuffed for no gain as the rain-soaked TCU faithful stormed the field.

The story of the game for nearly 60 minutes, though, was the weather.

21 of the points in this game were scored prior to the heavens opening and a downpour of Biblical proportions commenced for essentially the last three-and-a-half quarters, with the other seven in regulation coming on a fumble return for a touchdown.  The last offensive points prior to overtime were scored with 7:28 left in the first quarter; the last non-overtime points were scored with 12:55 remaining in the second.

If you were unable to watch, there’s one statistic that sums up just how borderline unplayable the conditions in this game were: 210. That’s the number of passing yards for which both teams combined to throw.  The Horned Frogs came into the game averaging 363.5 yards per game, fifth in the country, while the Bears were 14th at 350.7.  Or how about this: the teams combined for nearly as many turnovers (seven) as third downs converted (eight, on 38 tries).

Or this: There were a combined 23 punts, which were only slightly trumped by 25 pass completions.  Johnson accounted for just seven completions — on 24 attempts — for 62 yards, the lowest aerial output of the Art Briles era in Waco.

It was a night fit for neither man nor beast, but in the end it was the Horned Frogs that made just enough plays to knock the Bears out of not only Big 12 but playoff contention as well.

With the loss, BU joins TCU as being officially eliminated from the Big 12 title race.  Instead, the winner of tomorrow night’s Oklahoma-Oklahoma State matchup will be crowned conference champions.

Hawaii opts for Nevada OC Nick Rolovich as head coach

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In the end, there’ll be no June Jones reunion on the islands.

A short time after reports surfaced that the former head coach was one of five finalists for the job, Hawaii announced that one of the other former players up for the job, Nick Rolovich, has instead landed the job.  Rolovich, who played quarterback for Jones during his time with the Rainbow Warriors, spent the past four seasons as the offensive coordinator at Nevada.

This will be Rolovich’s first job as head coach.

“I’m pleased to welcome back Nick Rolovich to the UH ‘ohana,” athletic director David Matlin said in a statement. “Nick is a Warrior at heart and someone I know our fans will support. He understands what it means to be a Warrior having played and coached here and what affect a winning program has with this community. I have no doubt we picked the right man for this job. The future is bright for Hawai‘i football.”

“Being raised a Warrior, there is a great sense of excitement and responsibility about bringing back a winning tradition to Hawai‘i football,” Rolovich said. “I can’t wait to get started. I’m honored to be selected to run this program which has made me into the man I am today.”

Not only was Rolovich a player at UH, but he was also an assistant there from 2008-11, serving as the team’s primary play-caller before moving on to Nevada. Rolovich’s final game as Nevada’s coordinator will be tomorrow night against San Diego State as he will not be with the Wolf Pack for their bowl game.

“Both Nick and UH have been transparent throughout the whole process and I appreciated that very much,” Nevada head coach Brian Polian said in his statement. “I am confident that his candidacy did not affect our preparation for SDSU. We will handle any decisions regarding the staff internally and make those decisions known when the time is appropriate.”

In addition to Rolovich and Jones, former Army head coach Rich Ellerson, current UH football analyst Rich Miano and Tulsa co-defensive coordinator Brian Norwood were reportedly finalists.

With Rolovich’s hiring, there are now a dozen openings for head coach at the FBS level.  10 of those openings are with Power Five programs.

Baylor, TCU battle each other, rain in 14-all first-half tie

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 27:  Trevone Boykin #2 of the TCU Horned Frogs throws against the Baylor Bears in the first quarter at Amon G. Carter Stadium on November 27, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Last year’s Baylor-TCU game was a wild 61-58 affair won by the Bears.  Through two quarters of play in this year’s edition of the rivalry, and thanks in very large part to the weather, it doesn’t appear that a repeat is in order.

In a game delayed nearly 50 minutes because of lightning in the Fort Worth area and that’s currently being played in a steady downpour, the No. 7 Bears and No. 19 Horned Frogs slipped and slogged — and fumbled and intercepted and muffed — their way to a 14-all tie at halftime.  BU turned the ball over three times — the trifecta of a fumble, interception and muffed punt — while TCU had one  interception and one fumble.  In last year’s game, which TCU was winning 31-27 at the half, the Bears had three turnovers while the Horned Frogs turned it over just once.

It actually looked as if a repeat of last year was in order as the Bears scored on their first two possessions and the Horned Frogs their first halfway through the opening quarter.  However, as the rain increased, the offensive production predictably decreased as just seven points were scored on the remaining 14 possessions of the half — and those came courtesy of a defensive score.

Even the return of Trevone Boykin couldn’t help the Horned Frogs get past the weather.  After missing the Week 12 loss to Oklahoma because of a sprained ankle, Boykin, playing on a heavily-taped joint, was back under center for the Frogs, completing 7-of-15 passes for 97 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Boykin’s counterpart, QB-turned-WR-turned-QB Chris Johnson, was making his first start, and in a driving rainstorm on the road no less.  He was responsible for two of the turnovers, an interception and a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, and passed for a meager 50 yards as the Bears attempted just 12 passes.

Devin Chafin was the offensive “star” of the game for both sides.  While the Bears back had just eight yards rushing, he accounted for both BU touchdowns.