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Archive for Monday, March 5, 2007

NCAA backtracks on rules

March 5, 2007

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The NCAA screwed up.

That's what Football Rules Committee chair Michael Clark bluntly admitted last month, when the committee went back to the drawing board and released new rules that likely will go into effect for this fall's college football season.

Looking for ways to speed up games a year ago, the NCAA implemented rules that influenced the start of the game clock. Game times went down, yes, but the number of plays drastically declined, too. Strategy had to be reformed, and many coaches weren't happy with the tinkering.

"The changes we made last year, overall, did not have a positive effect on college football at all levels," Clark confessed.

Rule 3-2-5 and 3-2-5-e have been converted back to 2005 form, meaning the game clock won't start until the ball is legally touched on kickoffs (as opposed to when the ball is kicked), and the game clock also won't go until the ball is snapped after a change of possession (rather than on the official's signal).

The NCAA, though, remains interested in cutting down game times.

"We're going to restore plays," Clark said, "but if we attack dead periods in the game, we might be able to get the same result."

That in mind, the Football Rules Committee recommended several rules designed to speed up the game, make the game more exciting and preserve both the number of plays and the traditional strategies that coaches have used for decades. The changes now must be considered by the Rules Oversight Panel before taking effect:

Among them:

¢ Charged team timeouts now will be 30 seconds shorter. In addition, the play clock will be only 15 seconds after a television timeout instead of the standard 25 seconds.

¢ Instant replay reviews will be limited to two minutes.

¢ The play clock will be used on kickoffs and will start when the official gives the football to the kicker. In the past, kickers had unlimited time to prepare for a kickoff.

¢ Kickoffs will originate at the 30-yard line instead of the 35.

The last rule is expected to decrease touchbacks, which stop play and prevent a potentially exciting return. The NCAA tried to help this a year ago when they chose to lower the kicking tee from two inches to one.

But that didn't prove to have much of an impact in Division I-A. Kansas University kicker Scott Webb, for example, actually got better despite the more challenging tee. In 2006, he booted touchbacks on 51 percent of his kickoffs (35 of 69). In 2005 with the higher tee, Webb had touchbacks on 47 percent of his kickoffs (28 of 60).

With five more yards to boot, Webb - and other kickers - can expect touchback totals to go down this year.

"Worst case scenario, it adds field position and scoring to the game," said Clark, coach at Division-III Bridgewater (Va.) College. "Defensive coaches may not like it, but I think fans will."

The Rules Oversight Panel will meet next week and choose to accept the new rules or send them back to the Rules Committee for reconsideration. They're expected to pass, and that would accomplish what the Rules Committee aspired for this offseason - cutting down game time without cutting out the game itself.

"We're trying to find the best of both worlds," Clark said. "So let's restore the plays, attack dead and down time and see if we can't get the same 12 or 13 minutes off the game time."




Whom the rules impact

With the new rules expected to be implemented for the 2007 college football season, who at Kansas University is influenced?:Mark Mangino, head coach: The obvious one. Mangino and his staff will have to re-examine and determine correct strategies and approaches to certain situations now affected by the new rules. Particularly, cutting the fat off of timeout discussions, going back to the old ways of clock management with rule 3-2-5 back to normal, and perhaps putting a greater emphasis on special teams - though the Jayhawks already stress that area more than most.Scott Webb, kicker: Not only will he have to get kickoffs airborne within 25 seconds of getting the football (which shouldn't be a big deal), Webb will get a new test with kickoffs for the second straight season - 70 yards to the end zone now, instead of 65. Webb probably will boot fewer touchbacks, but his leg strength is above-average regardless. He should be fine.Jake Sharp or Marcus Herford, kick returner: Whomever it is, he'll have a greater responsibility on his shoulders. While several kicks were returned in 2006 - mostly by Herford, who did a solid job for the most part - either one of these guys can expect a lot more work in this role with fewer touchbacks expected. Perhaps a reason to split up the duties?

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