Need-to-Know Rule Changes for 2017

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

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By National Football Foundation

As the season draws near, the month of August provides the
perfect time for the National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall
of Fame to highlight the key rule changes that will take effect during
the 2017 college football season.
Since 2011, the NFF has partnered with Rogers Redding, the
national coordinator of College Football Officiating (CFO), to help
generate awareness for the rule changes in college football through a
series of regular columns distributed by the NFF. The CFO functions
as the national professional organization for all football officials
who work games at the collegiate level, and the organization held its
annual winter meeting of conference coordinators for football
officials in late January for the fifth consecutive year at the NFF
headquarters in Irving, Texas.
Having officiated football for more than three decades, Redding
started his career working high school football in Texas. He later
officiated in the Southwest Conference from 1988-93, served as a
referee in the Southeastern Conference for nearly a decade and worked
three national championship games. He received his bachelor’s degree
from Georgia Tech and later obtained a masters and PhD in physical
chemistry from Vanderbilt. Redding was honored with the NFF’s
Outstanding Football Official Award in 2010.
The NCAA football rules committee recommended a very small number
of changes for the 2017 season, and these were approved earlier this
year by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP). Because 2017 is
the “off year” for changes, the committee was limited to making rules
that directly impact the safety of the players. Here are the 2017
major rule changes as summarized by Rogers Redding:
Horse Collar Tackle
The nameplate area of the jersey is added to the inside collar
of the shoulder pad and jersey as places where it is illegal for a
tackler to grab a ball carrier and immediately pull him to the ground.
The committee recognizes that on occasion a tackler grabs the
nameplate area and jerks the ball carrier down, with the same effect
as if his grip was on the collar.
Leaping and Hurdling
No defensive player who runs forward from beyond the neutral zone
may leap or hurdle in an obvious attempt to block a field goal or try.
Before this change, a player committed a foul only if he landed on
another player. This year, the committee took note of some players
being injured in making these moves when trying to block a place kick,
so the change is an attempt to take this leaping and hurdling action
out of the game.
2018 Rule Change – Knee Pads
Beginning in 2018, players’ pants must have knee pads such that
the pants and the pads cover the knees. Previously, the rules
recommended that the knees be covered, but this was not required. The
committee is delaying implementation of the mandate until 2018 because
a number of schools have already bought equipment for the year. There
is great concern throughout the football world about the tendency for
some players to wear “biker’s shorts” that only come to within several
inches of the knee. This is a safety issue as well as one that does
not present a good look for the game.
Point of Emphasis – Game Length
Length of games is a topic under active discussion among
conference commissioners, athletics directors, television people and
other stakeholders of college football. The NCAA football rules
committee has also been looking at this, as game times have crept up
over the last several years.
Since 2008, when games at the FBS level averaged three hours and
nine minutes, game time on average in 2016 stretched to three hours
and 22 minutes, an increase of 13 minutes. Of course, this is an
average that washes out a lot of detail. But it is clear that with a
growing number of teams running high-powered offenses that generate
more plays and more touchdowns, the overall length of games has
naturally gone up.
In discussing this trend, the rules committee has not settled on
an optimum game length. But the general sense is that times as long as
three and a half hours would not be good for the game. As the
committee seeks ways to deal with this, there is little support for
making rules changes that would take plays out of the game. And so it
will look for ways to manage the length of the game by addressing how
to manage the dead-ball times. Officials are charged with the
responsibility of being efficient in handling dead-ball intervals and
plays where the game clock stops, such as incomplete passes.
One point of emphasis for the officials this year will be to
have better control of the length of halftime. By rule the halftime is
20 minutes, but there are often some delays in starting the countdown.
Also, current rules allow the schools to mutually agree that the
halftime will be longer than 20 minutes. One small but perhaps
significant editorial change for 2017 is this: the teams will be
allowed to agree on a shorter halftime, but they may not make it
longer than 20 minutes. And the referees are being instructed to start
the 20-minute halftime countdown as soon as the first half ends, per
the language of the rule. The hope is that these steps will halt the
trend for longer game times.

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