NCAA proposes significant changes to kickoffs

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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.

Steven Clark transfers to Western Michigan after being medically DQd by Syracuse

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Steven Clark will indeed give college football at this level another go.

In a text message to the Syracuse Post-Standard, Clark confirmed that he has decided to transfer to Western Michigan.  The move comes a little over a month after a health issue prematurely ended his time at Syracuse.

While the school’s medical results were disputed by his family, Clark (pictured, No. 72) was medically disqualified by ‘Cuse in June because of a genetic disorder that makes him susceptible to blood clots. Not long after, the defensive lineman stated on Twitter that he had “requested… permission to contact other schools in order to see if I can go anywhere else to play.”

According to the Post-Standard, “four independent doctors cleared Clark for physical activity — two before the disqualification and two after.” WMU doctors will need to sign off on Clark’s health as well.

If that happens, Clark would be eligible to play immediately for the Broncos.

The lineman ended his Orange career having played in 21 games, starting nine of those contests. He was credited with 37 tackles, three tackles for loss and a pair of fumble recoveries.

Coming to SU as a three-star 2015 recruit out of Alabama, Clark held offers from, among others, Florida, Memphis and Vanderbilt.

Ex-Michigan State football player suing Draymond Green

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An incident involving one former Michigan State football player and one ex-Spartans basketball player continues to make headlines a year later.

In mid-July last year, former MSU hoops star hoops star and current Golden State Warrior Draymond Green was arrested and charged with assault following an altercation at an East Lansing drinking establishment.  According to police reports at the time, the target of the alleged assault was Spartans cornerback Jermaine Edmondson.

Fast-forward a little over 12 months later, and Edmondson, along with his girlfriend Bianca Williams, has filed a civil lawsuit in California against Green.  Per mlive.com, the attorney representing the plaintiffs “declined to specify an amount of damages her clients are seeking.”

“I think about what happened with Draymond every day,” Edmondson said according to the website. “I still feel his hand on my jaw. There are nights when I wake up crying. I don’t understand why my name has been turned into this joke, and he gets all this credit for being a superstar and for standing up for women.”

Less than a week after the incident, Edmondson, who claimed during today’s press conference he longer felt safe on the university’s campus because the incident involved the beloved Green, was granted a release from his MSU scholarship and transferred from the Spartans.  Reportedly, however, the incident and transfer had nothing to do with each other.

Edmondson ended up at a Div. II program in Virginia, but did not play at all during the 2016 season.

Green ultimately saw the original assault charge dropped, instead paying a noise violation fine.

“Draymond looks forward to defending himself and clearing up the misinformation put forth today,” a portion of a statement from Green’s publicist read.

Larry Fedora part of North Carolina contingent attending mid-August NCAA hearing

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I’m quite certain that Larry Fedora is absolutely thrilled over this development.

On Aug. 1, North Carolina football players will report to campus.  A day later, the Tar Heels will kick off their sixth summer camp under Fedora.  Exactly two weeks after that?  Fedora will be forced to leave his football squad as part of the UNC contingent that will be in attendance at the university’s hearing in front of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.

The two-day hearing will take place Aug. 16-17 in Nashville, Tenn.

The news comes exactly two months after, for the third time in as many years, UNC responded to a Notice of Allegations connected to a decade-long academic scandal.

In June of 2014, the NCAA informed UNC “that it would reopen its original 2011 examination of the past academic irregularities.” The first NOA was sent to the university in 2015, with UNC accused of lack of institutional control as to student-athletes in multiple sports, including football, receiving preferential access to the controversial African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) courses dating all the way back to 2002.  In April of 2016, UNC received an amended NOA that replaced “lack of institutional control” with “failure to monitor.”

A decision from the NCAA on what if any punitive measures the football program will face is expected to come two months or so after the conclusion of the hearing.  Such a timeline would, of course, put the resolution right in the middle of the football season.

It should be noted that Fedora is not facing any type of misconduct connected to the academic scandal.

Jim Harbaugh confirms Michigan football will head to Paris, Normandy next offseason

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At least partially, Michigan players will see their offseason travel wishes for next year granted.

Fresh off their spring break trip to Rome this year, Jim Harbaugh revealed last month that his Wolverines football players, following a team vote, were eyeing a trip next year that would include stops in Paris and London.  At the Big Ten Media Days Tuesday, Harbaugh confirmed that they would indeed be taking the team to Paris around the same time next year.

Instead of London, however, U-M will take in the sights at historically-steeped Normandy.

The trip to Rome this year cost in the neighborhood of $800,000, although that particular tab was picked up by a well-heeled booster of the program. It’s expected that the same scenario financially will play out for this trip as well, regardless of the cost.