Rule changes focus on players’ safety, game tempo

Along with a new head coach and new expectations, the Tech football team will also have to deal with several new rule changes. From on field play to replay, the committee reviewed and amended the rules to fit what will best suit the college football game. The changes are highlighted by new rules that ban “horse-collar” tackles and a new 40-second play clock that will start the moment an in-bounds play is ruled dead.

This year, as they have in the past, the rules committee focused on ways to make the game safer for the student athletes as well as consistently making the ball available for play. Two seasons ago, when the committee ruled to start the game clock when ball was first touched on a kicking play and the clock would start when possession of the ball went to the other team, many coaches spoke out against these changes because it allowed for less plays per game.

Some coaches took advantage of the rule. With 23 seconds left in Wisconson’s game against Penn State last season, the Badgers blatantly were offsides before the kickoff three straight times, to allow the clock to run down to zero without the Lions getting a chance to return the ball. The ruling was reversed after the season.

This year, however, the NCAA is instilling a 40 second play clock similar to that of the NFL’s. The 40 second clock will start when the whistle blows in-bounds plays dead. There are several situations, however, where a referee’s whistle and 25 second play clock will be used instead. Among these situations are penalties, timeouts, measurements, change of possession and replay review. For out of bounds plays, the clock will start only when the referee signals the ball ready for play. The only exception to this is during the last two minutes of each half, where the clock will only start after the snap.

In terms of player safety, the committee has amended four rules. This season, it is illegal to initiate contact with the crown of the helmet and it is also illegal to initiate contact with a defenseless player above the shoulders. Both of these will carry 15-yard penalties as well as personal fouls.

Chop blocks, ruled as a combination high-low or low-high block by two players against the opponent will be considered a personal foul and a 15 yard penalty. The face-mask foul rule has also been updated. This year, there will be no five yard penalty, but only a 15-yard penalty and a personal foul if the player pulls, twists or turns an opponents face mask with their hands.

The final safety rule that was updated was the horse collar tackle. Previously, it was not illegal to grab a player by the inside or side collar of the jersey or pads and pull the runner down. This season, it will be a personal foul and a 15 yard penalty. This rule does not apply to runners inside the tackle box (the area behind the right and left tackles of the offensive line); it also does not apply to quarterbacks in the pocket.

The rule changes also include rules involving replay. This season, field goals will be reviewable as long as the ball does not travel higher than the top of the uprights.

Also, if a ball carrier is ruled down by contact and the ball is fumbled before the whistle is blown, the official may review the play to determine whether there was a fumble. If the call is overturned, the ball will be placed at the spot of the recovery.

The coach’s challenge rule has been updated as well. This year, if a coach successfully challenges a play, he will be allowed another challenge until he incorrectly challenges a play.

Sideline warnings have now been changed to sideline infractions. Both of the first two infractions will immediately be a five yard penalty. A third infraction will be a 15-yard penalty. Obtaining opponents’ signals is also illegal this season.