Big name coaches in college football like Chip Kelly, Frank Beamer, Brady Hoke, Brian Kelly, and Todd Graham are making millions of dollars a year leading their respective programs. However, in 2012 the most valuable member of the Oregon, Virginia Tech, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Arizona State coaching staffs may actually be the Equipment Manager.
The NCAA quietly passed legislation for the upcoming season that will drastically impact games. If a player’s helmet pops off during a play this season, that player is treated like an injured player. He must leave the field of play and is forced to sit out one full play before returning to the game. Equipment Managers are now going to be charged (and in some cases burdened) with ensuring that players are wearing their helmets properly.
Let that soak in for a moment. If a dude’s helmet pops off during the game, suddenly it’s not a good thing to be getting face time on national tv. That means he’ll be watching from the sideline for the next play and hurting his own team in the process. Think about how that might impact close games in crucial moments.
If a player’s helmet comes off and it’s not due to an opponent’s personal foul, he is done for one full play. If this happens and there is less than one minute in a half and the helmet coming off is the only reason for the clock stopping, the opposing team can choose to enforce a 10-second runoff, which can be avoided with a timeout.
Any way you slice it, this new rule change may prove to be painful for some coaches. Already there have been several prominent coaches, such as Mack Brown, who’ve voiced their displeasure, and I can see their point of view.
Nevertheless, the NCAA chose to step in and end the absurdity that we were all witnessing on Saturdays the past few seasons. Seemingly every televised game would feature several helmets popping off, with cameras immediately zooming in on the player as he picked up his helmet and took his time buckling back up. The players were soaking up face time, while clearly not having their helmet buckled to their cranium tight enough. Not only had it become silly, the tv cameras shed light on a glaring safety issue for college football.
But here’s where things may get dicey for Equipment Managers. Many prominent programs like those mentioned above are sponsored by Nike, Under Armour, or Adidas and are wearing multiple uniform and helmet combinations this year…a new tradition started by the Oregon Ducks several years ago. Even the Duke Blue Devils (winners of 11 total football games in the past three seasons) are now rocking three different helmets this season.
Keeping helmets securely fastened to the heads of college players that emulate the hair styles of Clay Matthews, Troy Polamalu, and Asante Samuel is going to be a huge challenge. Trying to do that as those same players swap out different helmets several times this upcoming season may prove to be impossible. 85 scholarship players, plus another 10-15 non-scholarship and walk-on players, times three or four different game day helmets means literally several hundred different helmets that the Equipment Manager must ensure have an extra-snug fit during the 2012 season. When one does pop off, it could have an impact on the game.
Will we see an Equipment Manager being berated on the sideline by a prominent Head Coach due to a helmet popping off at the wrong time? Will we see a game affected by an “alternate” helmet popping off of a player’s dome at the wrong time? If that does occur, will that end the days of Notre Dame wearing three different helmets in a season?
The position of Equipment Manager is a thankless job. And now it’s a thankless job that will be in the spotlight for the entire 2012 season.