NCAA Changes Penalty For 'Defenseless Player' Hits

By Marc Morehouse, Reporter

IOWA CITY, Iowa - You already knew the NCAA has player safety engraved on its letterhead.

This is a touchy topic. A lot of folks like the game the way it is and want it to stay as "football" as possible. But the growing evidence of long-term health issues (particularly brain health) is an ongoing story that pins a new headline on the board every year.

Thursday, the NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a new rule that requires players who target and contact defenseless players above the shoulders to be ejected. This is effective for the 2013 season. The change increases the on-field penalty for targeting by adding the automatic ejection to the existing 15-yard penalty.

This begs the eternal question, "What is a defenseless player?" Also, what is malicious contact? There is subjectivity here. The "you know it when you see it" makes sense in theory, but you can't write that in a rule book with a straight face.

By the way, here is the NCAA's definition for a "defenseless player":

Defenseless Player
ARTICLE 14. A defenseless player is one who because his physical position and focus of concentration is especially vulnerable to injury. Examples of defenseless players are:

a. A player in the act of or just after throwing a pass.
b. A receiver whose focus is on catching a pass.
c. A kicker in the act of or just after kicking a ball.
d. A kick returner whose focus is on catching or recovering a kick in the
air.
e. A player on the ground at the end of a play.
f. A player obviously out of the play

The kicker with this new rule is this: If the foul occurs in the first half of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game. If the foul occurs in the second half or overtime of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game and the first half of the next contest.

The ejection portion of this penalty will be reviewable on video replay. The replay official must have conclusive evidence that a player shouldn't be ejected to overturn the call on the field. Also, postgame conference review remains in play, meaning the conference can add to the suspension or reduce it if warranted.

There is another new rule for blocking below the waist. It focuses on the block itself and will allow these blocks by stationary players in typical line play.

So, cut blocks are still cool on the line of scrimmage.

The oversight panel denied the Football Rules Committee's proposal to require an institution's jersey or pant color to be different from the field of play, citing concerns that it did not enhance the image of the game.

Boise State's blue jerseys on its blue turf are A-OK.

The panel denied a proposal to move the down and distance markers to the other side of the field for the second half.

Huh?

Other approved rules:

– To add a 10-second runoff with less than a minute remaining in either half when the sole reason for the clock stoppage is because of injury.

If you hit the turf thinking you're saving your team time and a timeout, it's going to cost 10 seconds. Even if you're really hurt.

– To establish three seconds as the minimum amount of time required to be on the game clock in order to spike the ball to stop the clock. If one or two seconds remain on the clock, there is only time for the offense to run one more play.

I don't get this one. A clock stoppage is a clock stoppage no matter when it comes. The clock doesn't start again until the ball is snap, however much time is left on the clock. Suddenly, the three-second mark carries a much bigger meaning.

– To require a player that changes numbers during the game to report this to the referee, who will announce it.

This ridiculousness started with USC and Lane Kiffin last season. It remains ridiculous. This should already have been a rule.

– To preclude multiple players from the same team from wearing the same uniform number (for example, two quarterbacks on the same team are not allowed to have the same number).

There are 105 players. This doesn't add up, unless it's cool for special teamers to have the same number as a QB or anyone else.

– To allow the use of electronic communication by the on-field officiating crew (the practice was used successfully on an experimental basis by the Southeastern Conference). This is a permissive rule and not a requirement.

I didn't know the SEC did this last season. Interesting.

– To allow instant replay to adjust the clock at the end of each quarter. Previously, this provision was in place only for the end of each half.

The big value here is that it gets kind of windy in Big Ten land in the fall.

– To clarify uniform rules as follows: "Jerseys must have clearly visible, permanent Arabic numerals measuring at least 8 and 10 inches in height front and back, respectively, and be of one solid color that itself is clearly in distinct contrast with the color of the jersey, irrespective of any border around the number." This rule goes into effect for Football Bowl Subdivision teams in 2013. Football Championship Subdivision, Division II and Division III teams will have until 2014 before the rule becomes effective.

Hi, Oregon.
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