It is the football offseason and that means it is time for the NCAA rules committee to come up with its annual recommendations for rules changes. This year’s set of recommendations was released this week and has already caused a lot of controversy and discussion. Before I moved to Australia for work last year I was a high school football official in Michigan so in this column I take a look at these proposed changes from an official’s perspective, as well as a fan’s.
The biggest, and by far the most controversial, proposed rule change concerns the rule about targeting of a player above the shoulders. The current rule states that it is a foul when a player target’s and initiates contact to the head or neck of a defenseless opponent with his own helmet, forearm, elbow, or shoulder; the rule also states that if there is doubt in the official’s mind about whether or not it is a foul, then it should be considered a foul. While there is no change to the wording of the rule, the penalty is changed from a 15-yard penalty to a 15-yard penalty and an automatic ejection from the game. This proposed change is obviously based on player safety which has become a major point of emphasis at all levels of football in recent years. Considering the growing evidence about the long term damage caused by repeated blows to the head, even those that do not cause concussions, more does need to be done to cut down on the number of hits to the head that players sustain.