A new year is upon us in college football and like we’ve seen for several years in a row. The rules are changing. Player safety has been at the forefront of many of these rule changes and in 2018 that continues as the NCAA Football Rules Committee approved several measures from the recommendations of NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel this past winter. Here is what’s different:
Fair Catches on Kickoffs
The receiving team on a kickoff will be permitted to signal for a ‘fair catch’ on kicks that travel in the air inside the 25-yard line resulting in a touchback. The fair catch has always been allowed at any point on the field, but instead of the ball being spotted at the point in which the ball was caught, NOW for kicks inside the 25, the ball will be placed for play at the 25 yard line. (Touchbacks were moved from the 20 yard line to the 25 yard line along with kickoffs moved from the 30 to the 35 in 2012.)
The fair catch rule is designed to limit unnecessary returns in games that are well in doubt so players don’t suffer injuries in games that have likely been decided (blowouts). It will be interesting to watch and see how often teams will elect to take the touchback in games that are still competitive.
End of Game TD & Resulting Extra Try (XP or 2-point conversion)
When a touchdown is scored as time expires in the 4th quarter, the scoring team may elect to not attempt the extra point or two-point conversion try if the resulting points would not affect the outcome of the game.
Instant Replay 10-Second Runoff
The addition of a 10-second runoff was approved when instant replay overturns the ruling on the field inside of one minute in either half, and the correct ruling would not have stopped the game clock.
Redshirts Can Play in Up to 4 Games and Retain Redshirt
College athletes competing in Division I football can participate in up to four games in a season without using a season of competition.
Division I student-athletes have five years to compete in up to four seasons of competition. The new exception allows football players to preserve a season of competition if, for example, injuries or other factors (coaching decisions) result in them competing in a small number of games.
It will be interesting to see how coaches use this in the first year. Will coaches put freshman out there early to gauge readiness, versus lesser opponents, when depth is needed, or flood the depth chart in mid-November/Bowl Season?
Notification of Transfer Model
This new system allows a student to inform his or her current school of a desire to transfer, then requires that school to enter the student’s name into a national transfer database within two business days. Once the student-athlete’s name is in the database, other coaches are free to contact that individual.
There are still rules that vary from conference to conference about a player transferring within different leagues (these rules vary). But players no longer have to be ‘released’ by their school and then have their former coach limit the list of schools a player may go and attend (unless conference rules prohibit the institution).
Blocking Below the Waist
The offense will not be allowed to block below the waist when the block occurs more than 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Additionally, other than the interior linemen, all blocks below the waist must be from the front.
Leaping & Field Goal/XP Personal Fouls & Unsportsmanlike Conduct
Leaping rules on field goals and extra points were adjusted to mirror similar rules regarding leaping the shield on punting plays. It is illegal to leap over the frame of the body of an opponent.
On successful field goals, penalty enforcement will be the same as on made extra points. Namely, all personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct fouls by the defending team will have the option to be enforced on the ensuing kickoff.
Play Clock Restarts After Touchdowns and Kickoffs
After a touchdown, the play clock will be set at 40 seconds to expedite the extra point or two-point conversion attempt. Additionally, following a kickoff, the play clock will be set to 40 seconds to restart play more quickly.
Knee pads are a big topic this year in college football. The knee pads MUST cover the knees of the player and the jersey pants MUST cover the knee pads as well. Also if an official discovers a player is not wearing mandatory equipment OR is wearing illegal equipment then the player must leave the game for at least one down (similar to lost helmet rule) or until the equipment and player and made legal for play. A team may elect to take a timeout to avoid the player missing a down.
Additionally the stomach AND the back plate of the shoulder pads may not be exposed. Also a T-shirt or undergarment may not protrude from the below the team issued jersey.
The NCAA will allow for players to display a graduate or academic recognition as part of the school or conference logo. The jersey may now display a “C” to designate a team captain. During the 2019 season team’s may display a college football “150th Anniversary” mark on the jersey. And the NCAA required that all schools must send electronic copies of all uniforms for each season to be reviewed by June 15th of each year of competition.
Field Markings & Advertising on Field
The NCAA will allow a single decorative marking centered on the 50-yard line and a maximum of four smaller flanking decorative markings are allowed. If a commercial entity or individual has purchased naming rights to the facility, that entity’s name/company-specific font or logo may be painted on the field in no more than two of the flanking locations.
A camera with no audio component may be attached to the cap of any official with prior approval of the conference and participating institutions.
Limiting the Number of Coaching Headsets
The NCAA decided to limit the number of communication devices that are permitted on the sidelines and booths for competition. 20 total communication devices are allowed (it used to be unlimited). 15 for coaches and graduate assistants. 4 for players. One on field for non-coaching activity. Only countable coaches and graduate assistants will be permitted in the coaches booth in the press box. And finally one communications technician is permitted on the field and one communications techinician is allowed in the booth.
Limits on Number of Bowl Ties Conferences May Have
The Division I Football Oversight Committee agreed to use a four-year average of historical bowl eligibility data to determine the number of primary bowl commitments each Football Bowl Subdivision conference may reasonably contract for the bowl cycle spanning the 2020-21 to 2025-26 seasons.
Committee members affirmed that the definition of a “deserving team” should remain as a team that has won a number of games against FBS opponents that is equal to or greater than the number of its overall losses (a record of 6-6 or better). FBS teams can still count one victory against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent toward meeting the “deserving team” requirement, provided the opponent averaged 90 percent of the permissible maximum number of grants-in-aid per year in football during a rolling two-year period.
If there are not enough “deserving teams” to fill all the certified bowl games in a given season, the existing exceptions remain available. These exceptions continue to include, as a final option, permitting teams into bowls with 5-7 records, provided they achieved a multiyear Academic Progress Rate allowing postseason participation. Eligible teams will be ranked in descending order based on multiyear APR.
Bowls also will be subject to annual reporting to ensure they remain in solid financial standing.