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The Good And Bad Of Proposed Football Rule Changes

gfx - honest opinionYesterday, the NCAA Football Rules Committee decided to get tough against above-the-shoulder hits on defenseless players.  In a unanimous vote, the committee chose to increase the penalty for “targeting” to make it a 15-yard penalty with an automatic ejection of the offending player.

On March 6th, this proposal will be given a final thumbs-up or thumbs-down by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel.

In theory, there’s nothing wrong the rules committee’s decision.  Most sane people want players to be protected as best as possible.  And while a big hit might make the ancient Roman in all of us cheer, the idea of seeing a player carted off the field upsets the stomachs of most rationale fans.  This writer was in Ohio Stadium in 2000 when Adam Taliaferro was dealt a career-ending spinal cord injury.  Thankfully, after months of rehab, Taliaferro began to walk again.  Waiting for the emergency responders to slowly clear a motionless player from the field is something that tends to stick with you.

So if the NCAA wants to protect players, fine.  Unfortunately, the way they’re going about it will only give on-field officials’ yet another judgement call that they do not want.

A better solution would be to shelve the ejection part of the penalty and instead better define what is and what isn’t an illegal hit.  That way coaches could better teach their players what not to do during games.  (At least the NCAA has proposed a video review take place before a player is actually booted from a game.)

Take, for example, the helmet-to-helmet hit.  Currently, if a defensive back’s helmet collides with a defenseless receiver’s helmet it’s supposed to be a penalty.  But officials often are left to debate whether or not the receiver turned his head into the defender, whether the blow was direct or glancing, whether the defender used the crown of his helmet, etc.  Scrap all that.  Just outlaw all above-the-shoulders hits on defenseless players.  After all, if a player leads with his helmet it’s a dangerous act whether the receiver happens to turn his head one way or another.  So teach players not to launch themselves into above-the-shoulder hits.

The NCAA also needs to do a better job of explaining just what constitutes a defenseless player.  Typically, it’s receivers and returners in the act of catching a pass or punt.  If that’s the limit, define it as such.  If a quarterback looking the wrong way after an interception is always to be considered a defenseless player, add that to the definition.

Trying to protect players — even if it takes away one or two excitingly violent hits per game — is the right thing to do.  But better defining an illegal hit and a defenseless player would make things easier on players, coaches, and officials.  Adding the possibility of ejection into the mix just muddies the water.  The NCAA should focus more on the act before increasing the punishment.

This was not, however, the only rule change proposed by the rules committee and awaiting approval by the oversight panel.  The other suggested changes are:

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SEC Coaching Rumors – 1/12/12

Just some reports and rumors from the SEC coaching carousel today:

* James Franklin has reportedly already found two new coaches for his staff at Vanderbilt.  George Barlow — who served as New Mexico’s interim head coach and defensive coordinator last year — is expected to join the Dores’ staff as cornerbacks coach.  Barlow spent time at James Madison from 1999 through 2008 before joining the Lobos.

There are also multiple sites reporting that Josh Gattis will take over as receivers coach and offensive recruiting coordinator.  Gattis is a 2006 Wake Forest grad who served as receivers coach at Western Michigan last season.

* Things are still turbulent at Tennessee.  Derek Dooley had current Alabama linebackers and assistant head coach Sal Sunseri in for a five-hour interview in Knoxville yesterday.  No deal was finalized before Sunseri returned to Tuscaloosa.

Today, Dooley will be interviewing Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green.  Michigan State D-coordinator Pat Narduzzi is also believed to have been contacted by the Vols.

Tennessee had hoped to have a new coordinator in place by the time wave of visitors arrive on campus this weekend, but Dooley’s tenuous job status has clearly been an issue for some candidates.

Meanwhile — yes, there’s more — offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is reportedly in serious discussions with Brian Kelly about joining the Notre Dame staff… which would open up yet another vacancy on UT’s staff.  Heading into what’s expected to be a make-or-break year, Dooley has seen one assistant retire and three others leave.  A fourth aide — Hiestand — might leave shortly and another assistant — Lance Thompson — may depart if he’s passed over for the D-coordinator job.

On top of that, San Diego Chargers special teams coach Rich Bisaccia continues to mull an offer from Dooley.

* Nick Saban is apparently scouring the NFL to find the next offensive coordinator at Alabama.  Former New York Jets O-coordinator Brian Schottenheimer — a Florida grad — has reportedly interviewed for the job already and ESPN’s Adam Schefter claimed yesterday that Dirk Koetter of the Jacksonville Jaguars will also interview.  Koetter was the head coach at Arizona State before joining the Jags.

* According to The Idaho Statesman — that’s a newspaper and not just a well-spoken Idaho native — reports that Boise State defensive backs coach Marcel Yates will take over as the secondary coach at Texas A&M.  Yates had been on BSU’s staff for nine seasons.

* It appears that South Carolina will lose another assistant, this one to Penn State.  Gamecocks special teams coordinator John Butler is expected to join Bill O’Brien’s new staff at Happy Valley.  Butler is a Pennsylvania native.

Steve Spurrier has now seen top defensive aide Ellis Johnson leave for the head coaching job at Southern Miss, running backs coach Jay Graham return to his alma mater — Tennessee — for the same job, and now Butler.  Spurrier promoted Lorenzo Ward to replace Johnson, but he’s still in the market for a linebackers coach, running backs coach and special teams coach.  Butler also coached Carolina’s “spur” linebacker position, so those duties will fall to one of the three new hires as well.

* Finally, it’s being reported by various outlets that new Auburn defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will make $850,000 per year.

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