A proposed NCAA Football rule change that is aimed at making the game safer took a step forward on Wednesday, and it is proof that the guys at the College Football level are better at trying to improve the game than their NFL counterparts.
The new rule would make it so that in addition to a personal foul, an intentional hit to a defenseless player delivered above the shoulder would be grounds for ejection from a game. If the hit were to occur in the first half, the player would be forced to sit out the rest of the game, and if it happens in the second half, the mini-suspension would last the second half of that game and the first half of the next.
I’m all for trying to make football a safer sport, especially at the college level, unless we are talking about that ridiculous idea the NFL has tossed around about eliminating kickoffs. Now allow me to address what many of you are thinking, and what I was worried about prior to getting the full skinny on the proposed rule.
There were countless occurrences in the 2012 season where a helmet-to-helmet flag was thrown and the second the replay landed on the nearest jumbotron it was obvious that the referee had made the wrong call. Most of the time it happened so fast it looked like a shot to the head but in fact was a shoulder hit.
The point I’m getting at here is blown calls like that, while a reason for angry crowd and coach reactions, could be shrugged off with relative ease as they only led to a 15-yard penalty. If this proposed new rule is ratified, though, a blown call can mean an ejection. You cannot currently challenge penalties, so a team could potentially lose a player for an entire game because of a clean hit that looked dirty in real time.
That is a serious problem with this rule, right? Wrong.
The ejection portion of the call would be eligible for video review. If the referee found evidence that the player did not intentionally lead with his helmet and target the head of the opponent then they will be allowed to stay in the game. The 15-yard penalty portion of the call is still not challengeable. The key to the ejection portion of the rule is whether or not the player delivering the blow did it on purpose.
With that extra measure added, I feel that this is an excellent proposed rule change and that it will drastically reduce the amount of these hits we see. Last season, there were 99 penalties that would have warranted an ejection under this rule. The lower the number the better, I say. The threat of ejection will force coaches to emphasize that players make proper form tackles, which will keep them in the game by avoiding both injury and ejection.
I love big hits as much as any red-blooded College Football fan, but I’m not worried about this rule making the sport somehow “softer”. Football doesn’t necessarily need forearm-shiver-to-the-helmet style tackles to draw that stadium-wide “OOOOOOHHH!!” noise. Jadeveon Clowney’s now famous beheading of Michigan Wolverines’ running back Vincent Smith was a perfect form tackle where Clowney nailed Smith in the chest with his shoulder. There was nothing dirty about that hit, just pure devastation.
Hopefully this rule will get passed and College Football will be a safer game. Nobody wants to see one of these young men suffer a life-altering injury because of a flagrant and unnecessary ugly hit. It may even lead to better tackling form, which God knows teams like my Texas Longhorns need.
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