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NCAA Looking To NFL Rulebook For Inspiration

The NCAA might be on the verge of copying over a few guidelines from the NFL’s rulebook.  Tennessee fans, take note.

Yesterday the NCAA proposed adopting a 10-second runoff for clock-stopping penalties in the final minute of each half, which as any Vol fan would tell you (loudly) would have earned UT a victory in last year’s Music City Bowl.

The runoff rule is a sound one.  The rule prevents teams — out of timeouts — from intentionally committing a penalty in order to stop the clock.  In last year’s Music City Bowl, that’s not what North Carolina did when it ran a final play with anywhere from 13 to 18 confused players on the field.  Still, a penalty in that situation — intentional or not — would have led to a 10-second runoff under the proposed rule.

Also, the NCAA has proposed moving umpires from their traditional spot in the middle of the defense to the offensive backfield for safety reasons.  The NFL implemented that rule this past season without controversy.

The NCAA has also proposed a change be made to the existing intentional grounding rule.  The current rules states that a receiver must have “a reasonable opportunity” to catch the football.  The new rule would state that a receiver need only be in the area to make a pass legal.

Other proposed changes:

* Players lined up within seven yards of the center on plays from scrimmage would be allowed to block below the waist anywhere on the field.  Running backs and receivers lined up outside the tackle box would be allowed to block below the waist only if they are blocking straight ahead or toward the nearest sideline.

* Defenses could receive a five-yard penalty on place kicks if three or more players try to overpower one offensive lineman.

It’s expected that April 14th will be the day the NCAA votes on these proposals.

We at are good with the first three changes mentioned above — clock runoff, grounding, moving umpires — but the last two could cause some concerns.  Both would require officials to look for more issues during plays.  Officials are human, if they’re given more fouls to watch for, their margin for error goes up. 

Example: Have you ever watched how defenders bunch together and leap forward when trying to block place kicks?  From what angle will referees be able to clearly see if three or more players are ganging up on one offensive lineman? 

As for receivers and running backs blocking below the waist only in certain directions, a new judgement call would be added into the mix.  Let’s say a receiver on the right side of the field is trying to block his man straight ahead but the blockee backs up and falls to his own right… to the inside of the play.  Now let’s say the receiver goes down with him and falls — along with the blockee — to the inside of the play.  Though the receiver was blocking straight ahead, the blockee’s actions could make it look as though the receiver was blocking to his left and to the inside of the play.  In the final minutes of a close game do you want an official to have to determine whether the receiver was blocking straight ahead or to the inside of the play?  While also watching everything else he’s supposed to be watching on said play?  No, thank ya.

The NCAA rulebook is thick enough as it is.  Fans and coaches complain too much about officials as it is.  Therefore it’s probably best to try and keep the rulebook as it is whenever possible.  Again, we’re good with the first three proposed changes, but not the final two additions.




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